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In pursuit of lifes sweetness – without any added sugar

Despite a bumpy ride so far, the Diabetic Bakery owner maintains an upbeat attitutude
by: Kristen Forbes, Sugar-free bakery boss Kevin Corwin pauses behind the counter of his establishment, Diabetic Bakery, in Tigard’s Canterbury Square.

(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer living in Tigard. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com.)

Life has not always been kind to Tigard's Kevin Corwin. The scars on his arm linger from the injury he received while serving in the Navy. His first wife died of a brain aneurysm, and his son died in a freak motorcycle accident. His parents live in a retirement center in Corvallis, where his mother's health is rapidly declining. With all that he's been through, one would expect him to be downtrodden and bitter.

Corwin, instead, is resilient, jovial and optimistic.

'This is what I used to always tell my son,' Corwin says. 'If you don't like your point of view, move to a new point and view again.'

When Corwin's Navy buddy Lino Rodriguez was diagnosed with diabetes, Corwin saw what a struggle it was for him to eat regular meals.

'This was a guy who I had always known had no vices in his life at all, except he liked to eat,' Corwin says. 'I got to see, up close, that there was really nothing for him to eat anymore.'

The two friends stuck together during all of their personal struggles throughout the years. Once, Corwin attempted to make Rodriguez a sugar-free birthday cake.

'It was a disaster,' Corwin says. 'I did not know, at the time, that sugar does a lot more for a baked product than sweetener. It also retains moisture. So if you just take a recipe and try to convert it, it will just crumble like dust.'

Corwin assumed that would be the end of his sugar-free baking days. After all, owning and running a diabetic bakery was never the original plan. After intensively studying Russian and serving as a linguist and interrogator, Corwin worked with computers in Silicon Valley and found himself making 'a bazillion dollars.'

This wasn't a life that satisfied Corwin, though. 'People only knew my name if something was wrong with something,' he says. Corwin eventually became the person whose job it was to lay others off - something he despised.

Re-enter his pal Rodriguez. In 2003, the two friends sampled the diabetic pastries at a bakery in Las Vegas and were impressed - the food didn't have the chalky, weird aftertaste Corwin normally associated with sugar-free foods.

Corwin then purchased recipes from a bakery based in Missouri and got hooked on a sugarless way of life.

'Sugar, honestly, is the biggest addiction in the United States,' Corwin says, who is now writing a book on the topic. He says that 22.4 percent of the population is diabetic, a fact he contributes to the typical American diet.

Corwin, who with his brother now owns a house in Hawaii which was previously owned by his parents, vividly remembers the time he toured a sugar processing plant in Maui.

'I had the opportunity to see sugar made, which was kind of frightening, really,' he says. 'There was this disgusting smell and I've always wondered why. So I stopped there one day and they allowed me - with the help of a respirator - to see formaldehyde and 27 chemicals being poured on sugar cane.'

After moving to Tigard in 2005, two major events happened to Corwin. First, he met a Russian woman, a former ballet and stage dancer and current 'doctor/ pharmacist/ interior designer' - the two married on No. 18, 2006.

'So that's why I learned Russian!' Corwin jokes.

Second, on April 25, 2006, he and Rodriguez opened Diabetic Bakery at 14345 Pacific Highway in the Canterbury Square shopping complex in Tigard. Rodriguez has since moved back to California, but Corwin remains, waking up at 4:30 a.m. seven days a week to pour his sugar-free knowledge and skills into his treats.

The bakery offers cakes, pies, turnovers, muffins, éclairs, cream puffs and more. Corwin encourages his customers to call in and receive 5 percent off their advance orders. He hands out samples daily.

Among his personal favorites are the pina colada pies, chocolate éclairs and cheesecakes. He also serves coffee and tea.

The bakery's Web site is www.diabetic-bakery.com and the phone number is 503-630-3067.

Corwin, who refuses to take life too seriously but does pride himself on his role as both a veteran and someone who's providing a sweet service to those with dietary restrictions, came up with this tag line: 'Land of the Free. Home of the Sugar-Free.'