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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  • by Yvonne Location: Elizabeth on Sep 19, 2011 at 11:14 AM
    You go Girl! I've been taking classes just this year and like you am in love with this new found hobby and would like to take it one step further to make this work out of my home. I just found out this is not possible. I sure hope this goes through.
  • by Amanda Bell Location: Grand Junction on Sep 1, 2011 at 08:27 PM
    Mande, I liked your page on facebook and I wanted to tell you the photos of your work are amazing! I wish you the best of luck and I wish you could be the one to make our daughter's 1st birthday cake :( but if everything goes well hopefully next year.
    • reply
      by Mande on Sep 6, 2011 at 06:26 AM in reply to Amanda Bell
      Thank you for your support!!
  • by Amanda Bell Location: Grand Junction on Sep 1, 2011 at 08:26 PM
    Mande, I liked your page on facebook and I wanted to tell you the photos of your work are amazing! I wish you the best of luck and I wish you could be the one to make our daughter's 1st birthday cake :( but if everything goes well hopefully next year.
  • by BA Location: Grand Junction on Sep 1, 2011 at 12:38 AM
    I think this idea has merit; it may even drive down the price of the delightful cupcakes. : ) So long as she does what is required by health laws put in place to prevent cross contamination and such I don't see why not. Good for her for finding/making a way!
  • by Amerikka on Aug 31, 2011 at 10:32 AM
    Land of the free!
  • by Trace Location: Clifton on Aug 31, 2011 at 05:52 AM
    If you have ever tried one of her cupcakes, you would not care where it was baked. I think the point of the article included the fact that buying and renting commercial space was cost prohibitive to most entrepreneurs. It would not be mandatory for anyone to purchase from her, it would just give the right to sell them to the baker.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Aug 31, 2011 at 06:04 AM in reply to Trace
      Perhaps if it's not cooked in a commercial kitchen the item should be labeled with a sticker informing the consumer?
      • reply
        by Mande on Aug 31, 2011 at 09:17 AM in reply to
        Absolutely!! Labeling of where the product is produced, a privet home kitchen regulated by the Cottage Food Law, will be part of the bill. You must disclose this information along with the address and phone number of the home. Also I feel there needs to be a warning label for any food allergens if the product includes them OR if they are used in your kitchen.
  • by Anonymous on Aug 31, 2011 at 04:50 AM
    She could buy one of those trailers and get it certified by the Health Department as a commericial kitchen.... PErsoanlly I'd rather know my food was cooked in a kitchen licensed by the health department and regularly inspected.
    • reply
      by Tea Party on Aug 31, 2011 at 07:57 AM in reply to
      Are you asking for more government regulation in your life ? I can not believe your reaction !
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Aug 31, 2011 at 08:24 AM in reply to
      Commercial or Consumer kitchen? The quality comes from the person cooking your food. Some of those commercial kitchens regulated and inspected by the health department are NASTY!
    • reply
      by Mande on Aug 31, 2011 at 09:28 AM in reply to
      Even the cost of a trailer is expensive. You still have to have all the commercial equipment and pay various fees to the Health Department, which are more expensive than they are when renting a commercial kitchen. This law would not let home kitchens go unchecked. The same regulations commercial kitchens have would apply to home kitchens except the requirement to have commercial equipment. Also This law is only for non hazardous food, foods with a high sugar content that do not need to be refrigerated or held at a certain temperature. Food that can sit at room temp for a long period of time without this risk of harboring a food born illness, baked goods. It is not just the matter of the expenses involved with being in a commercial kitchen, but I and most people do not want to run a full time bakery. We simply want to fill a couple of orders a week for family and friends and make a few extra bucks to pay for our groceries and what not.
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