New Jersey is home to many ambitious and talented women who juggle family, career and home. A select few of these women are also extremely busy building their own companies to help better manage the whole work-life balance. At NJ Mom, we want to highlight these extraordinary women building NJ businesses and learn the secret to their success.
Squirrel & The Bee: Making Grain & Gluten-Free Baked Goods In Short Hills, New Jersey
NJ Mom, Michelle Retik, the owner of a grainless bake shop called Squirrel & The Bee, based out of Short Hills, in Essex County, New Jersey, has been busy building her business and brand over the last year.
Squirrel & The Bee uses nut flours for their grain and gluten-free baked goods, which supports the SCD, Paleo, other anti-inflammatory diets, Crohns/Colitis, and other autoimmune diseases. Nut flours are loaded with protein and healthy fats, which provide you with loads of energy throughout the day that will make you look and feel great as well.
We had the opportunity to ask Michelle a few questions about her business and herself; here’s what she had to share.
NJ MOM: How did you come up with the idea for a Grainless Bake Shop? What inspired you?
Michelle: I began baking (and cooking) grain free/sugar free/dairy free after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2011. I was undergoing multiple treatments that were not helping, so I decided to try changing my diet to see if it would help. Within 48 hours I felt better than I had in 8 months! As I began to feel better, I went back into the kitchen, determined to make new foods that I loved and were good for me. I’ve been free of all medications for almost 4 years and I feel great. Local families started to ask me if I could make some baked goods for them in 2013, and the inspiration came from all of their stories of children, husbands and wives, friends and relatives who were in need of grain free/gluten free/refined sugar free/dairy free due to health issues, but had nowhere to go to find them.
Michelle: Squirrel & The Bee is a Grain Free, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free and mostly Dairy Free bakery/cafe. We make all types of baked goods – muffins, breads/loaves, cakes, cookies, pies, etc…, and we make fresh soups, salads and sandwiches every day. We have great coffee and tea, and we also make dairy free ice cream from our homemade nut milks (made in house daily). I like to think of Squirrel & The Bee as a farm-to-table bakery: we use as many local ingredients as possible from area farms and will be growing our own herbs and some vegetables in a garden behind the bakery.
NJ MOM: What’s your background in baking?
Michelle: I graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2009. It was a career change for my but I had always wanted to be a Pastry Chef. I love being in the kitchen and I love food!
NJ MOM: Who is your role model?
Michelle: I don’t know that I have one specific role model. I admire my mother tremendously for her fighting spirit; she has been sick for many years with MS yet she never complains and she always has a smile. I admire many of the women I know who work and follow their passions, inspiring me to do the same. I constantly look to my husband who has the incredible gift of being able to be compassionate and level headed even in the most stressful situations.
Michelle: The best piece of advice came from my husband. When I was second-guessing my plans to open the bakeshop (I was so scared!) he said to me: “You cannot soar like an eagle and poop like a pigeon!” I laughed so hard I cried, but I understood what he was telling me. You must decide which you are – and what you want to be – and go for it!
NJ MOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by?
Michelle: I think I have a few, but I really like the one above. It makes me laugh each time but it keeps me going. I also believe that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade!
NJ MOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Michelle: I live in Short Hills and since I feel so lucky to be here, I also consider my home to be my vacation spot! I enjoy just being home, spending time with my family and cooking, watching movies and relaxing.
Michelle: I really love going to Words Bookstore in Maplewood and browsing the shelves. If I’m going out to eat, I often go to Ma Maison in Millburn because their foods is very clean and healthy (and delicious!). But I think my favorite place to go is the Claridge Theatre in Montclair. They always have great indie movies that I enjoy.
NJ MOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey?
Michelle: I really love taking my dog Eddie hiking through the reservation and the new walking area around the reservoir by the Turtle Back Zoo. It feels like you are in the mountains of Vermont and I can quickly de-stress when I have had a tough day.
NJ MOM: Anything else you’d like to Share with moms in New Jersey?
Michelle: They say it takes a village, and I have found a village here in NJ. There are so many wonderful “mom groups” that help support and encourage each other. I am happy to be a part of the working moms of NJ!