New bakery on State Street to offer gluten-free, dairy-free goods

BRISTOL, Va. — With the arrival of Urban Thistle Bakery to State Street, Bristolians will soon be able to treat themselves to various gluten-free and dairy-free baked goods.

Deb Hawkins, the owner of Urban Thistle, was already a baker when she learned that she had Alpha-gal syndrome, a serious food allergy which makes people allergic to red meat and other products made from mammals.

“I was a baker, and I couldn’t taste what I baked because I couldn’t have any of those things,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins quickly became aware that there was a need and a clientele looking for a bakery that took into account their dietary restrictions and set up shop at the Bristol Farmers Market.

“When I first did the research, there was nothing between Roanoke, Lexington, Knoxville, Atlanta, Charlotte that does full gluten-free,” Hawkins said. “I thought, you know, there has to be a place where people can go and kids can go get birthday cakes, or people can go and get wedding cakes.”

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At Urban Thistle, Hawkins will be baking everything from her signature jumbo muffins to cakes and cookies. She also plans on offering gluten-free and dairy-free breakfast and lunch.

“We’re gonna do bakery all day, some breakfast and some lunch items. I’ll do like a quiche and then gluten-free biscuits and gravy,” Hawkins said. “Of course, it would have to be turkey or plant-based protein for me to be able to cook it.”

Hawkins will be baking with rice flour, sorghum flour, and almond flour. Despite this, she emphasized that customers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference flavor-wise.

“You wouldn’t know it was gluten or dairy-free if I didn’t tell you,” Hawkins said. “I strive to make it that way.”

Urban Thistle will also serve dairy-free coffee, which will be roasted in-house by Dottie Adams of Steep Mountain Coffee.

Hawkins won second place in the 2022 Believe in Bristol entrepreneurship grant for which she received $20,000, which she has used to set up Urban Thistle Bakery on State Street.

Hawkins anticipates the renovations to Urban Thistle’s new space to be completed by October but she plans to have a booth during this weekend’s Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.

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