Gluten-free store celebrates two years
By Dustin White
Mandan News, editor
Being diagnosed with Celiac disease can be a troubling experience. One ends up having to be mindful of not just what they eat, but also the products they use on their bodies, as contact with gluten can cause adverse reactions.
Living in the Bismarck-Mandan area, finding foods meant scouring labels for hours, and often coming up with little. While the grocery stores do carry a few products, and more now than before, they are still few and far in between.
When Lisa Helseth was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2011, the lack of gluten-free products was a major obstacle. With her son and sister being diagnosed shortly after, the need for such products became more apparent.
So on Feb. 25, 2012, Helseth took the risk and opened up Lisa’s Gluten-free and More, in Mandan.
“We wanted to help people in the community who suffered from the same condition,” said Helseth. “As there wasn’t much in the grocery stores, we wanted to fill that niche.”
It had taken awhile to find a suitable location. The key was to find a space that was the right size; one that wasn’t too large, but allowed some room for growth.
After two years, their store is now brimming with products, and a loyal customer base.
“We started with just 750 products, and now have over 2700 items,” said Helseth.
As the only gluten-free store in North Dakota, Helseth said that they get customers from throughout the state, as well as from Canada.
“We have become like a family,” said Helseth. “We all share this same condition, so we get to know each other, which is very rewarding.”
During an open house on Saturday, March 8, the future of the store looks quite secure. With more products coming in every week, Helseth is optimistic.
“We are getting to a point in which we will be able to start hiring some employees, and better serve the community,” Helseth said. “If things continue going as they are, expanding may be an option as well.”
Beth Fahlstrom was diagnosed with Celiac over 30 years ago. At that time, most of the gluten-free foods were tasteless and of a poor texture.
Having a love to cook and bake, Fahlstrom began experimenting with new recipes.
“My goal was twofold,” said Fahlstrom. “I wanted to create food that not only tasted good, but also give support to as many people I could while they also went to the lifestyle change.”
Like a whirlwind, those goals kicked off. What began as a necessary change to live with Celiac, turned into a family business.
“My husband Wayne has been so very supportive of this effort,” Fahlstrom said. “Through the years he has been my chief taste-tester. When something was a real flop he’d say ‘this is really good, honey, but I wouldn’t order it in a restaurant.”
The foods that Fahlstrom Farms produces are meant to taste such that one isn’t able to tell if they are gluten-free or not.
It isn’t just about the food though. Fahlstrom also wants to educate the public on what Celiac is.
“We offer many different services,” Fahlstrom said. “I enjoy public speaking as well as training others.”
Fahlstrom Farms products are one of the brands stocked at Lisa’s Gluten Free and More.
While Celiac disease still is an upward journey, many in the area are now able to enjoy a bit of ease because of the products that others are bringing to the area.