Cottage food effort cooking in Colorado

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- When she could no longer afford to rent her office space, one local woman had hoped to run her business from home -- but found state laws barred her from doing so. Now, after months of pushing to get the rules changed, she may just get her wish.

"Baking and decorating cakes for people has become a passion for me," said Mande Gabelson, owner and founder of Ava Sweet Cakes.

But it's a passion with no outlet. Gabelson says she finds herself baking a lot of cupcakes for her family these days now that her business has come to a standstill.

"I had to leave that facility due to costs and some personal health issues," said Gabelson. "So everything got put on hold with my business. Without a commercial kitchen, [by law] I cannot produce foods and sell to the public."

Earlier this year she sent letters to each member of the Colorado House and Senate, asking them to consider a "cottage food law" -- a law that would allow her and other bakers to bake non-hazardous foods (foods that can be kept at room temperature without spoiling or harboring bacteria or food borne illness) in their own kitchens, then sell them for a profit.

Gabelson says more than 25 states have cottage food laws and all include a level of government oversight to meet health standards.

"My belief is let's make it legal, let's regulate it, and let's make it safe for everybody all around," said Gabelson.

Sunday, she got a call back from State Representative Laura Bradford, (R) Collbran, who says her background as a small business owner compelled her to do something.

"We need to clear the way for these small business entrepreneurs to create their own businesses, their own jobs, be responsible for their own incomes, employ other people, and get this economy moving again," said Bradford.

Bradford says she finds it strange that state law allows Gabelson to bake cupcakes in her kitchen, then sell them at her son's bake sale, but does not allow her to sell them in a business capacity.

"As long as she's certified and registered and examined once a year by the health department -- if everything is fine, then everything should be fine for her to sell retail or wholesale," said Bradford.

After meeting with Gabelson Tuesday, Bradford says she's ready to carry a cottage food bill during the 2012 legislative session.

"The legislation that I will carry will get rid of that red tape and take down those barriers," said Bradford.

Gabelson says she knows there will still be hurdles to overcome, but is happy to see things moving.

"I am ecstatic," said Gabelson.

The bill has not yet been drafted, but Bradford says she wants to make sure it spells out broad statewide guidelines, then gives each county the authority to regulate cottage food businesses as they see fit.

Gabelson says she will track the bill's progress via her "Colorado Cottage Law Movement" facebook page.

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