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Sweet Satisfaction

Clackamas bakery caters to diabetics with sugar-free sweets
by: Aaron Breniman, Donna Nelson, left, and Nanette Goin.

The sights and smells around a recently opened Clackamas bakery are familiar. There are apple turnovers, cannolis, cakes, cookies and lots of chocolate. There's just one thing missing - sugar.

Just Delicious Diabetic Delights - or simply, 'Sugar Free Bakery,' as a sign outside indicates - opened Jan. 21 in Gladstone's Greenhouse Square shopping center. With the dearth of similar businesses in the area, co-owners Donna Nelson and Nanette Goin expected their business would eventually take off, banking on an increase in customers over 'six or seven months.' Instead, business exploded in six or seven weeks.

The duo's success may be attributed to their ability to empathize with customers. Goin and Nelson, who met more than three decades ago in Gladstone, are both married to diabetic men. Until recently, they were also both retired. Last summer, Nelson said she simply decided, 'I'm going to open a sugar-free bakery.' Goin offered to partner in the business, and the two began their research.

They looked at different sweeteners and distributors. They baked and tested the confections out on their husbands, working not just to eliminate sugar, but to do away with the aftertaste typical of some artificial sweeteners. They even took a week-long, intensive class in Las Vegas that dealt specifically with sugar-free baking. They shot for an ambitious opening date just before Christmas. When a supplier failed to get them all of their kitchen equipment on time, they were forced to move the opening back, but not by much. The bakery opened its doors Jan. 21.

'We had no idea what to expect,' Goin said. 'We had no idea what people were going to buy. We just went by the seat of our pants.'

They got their answer. People craving a sweet fix who can't indulge in sugar will buy just about anything on the menu, especially the cookies. Nelson has a batch of 192 ready when the store opens at 10 a.m., and they're gone by noon. They haven't removed a single item from the original menu, but they've added some. They've found their niche goes beyond diabetics. They've gained a following with Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig patients, and a few local hospitals have put in calls. They've been able to hire two employees form the Oregon Culinary Institutes baking program to help with the spike in business.

Part of their popularity, they believe, is also an ability to experiment outside of their typical items. One customer has asked if they could replicate a key lime pie, and they're giving it a shot. Another customer, a native of Georgia, told Goin he pined for a sweet potato pie. Shortly thereafter, she underwent unexpected surgery, but she's determined to develop a sugar-free alternative to the man's mother's recipe.

Nelson said that Just Delicious's success is especially timely, given the current economic climate. Prices on dairy items have spiked, as have transportation and shipping costs. Since they have to import most of their sweeteners and non-traditional baking items from the east coast, shipping cost increases cut into the bottom line. There appear to be some people determined to keep that from happening.

'We have customers that come in and say, 'We will do whatever is possible to make sure you stay in business,'' Goin said.

Just Delicious Diabetic Delights is located at at 16140 SE 82nd Drive in Clackamas, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.