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Gluten-free Eatery and Bakery Opens in Sussex

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For those who suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease, Cathy Berzins and her Birch Tree Café in Clarksville are addressing a need with a 100-percent gluten-free eatery and bake shop. “I’ve had people hug me, crying when they leave, saying they hadn’t had a sandwich in four years,” Berzins says. “This happens all the time.” Birch Tree, which opened in 2012 inside the Good Earth Market, specializes in artisanal gluten-free breads, baked goods like muffins, cupcakes and pies, gluten-free lunch and takeout goodies, including sandwiches, pizzas and quiches. Berzins, who previously co-owned South Bethany Seafood Market and Café on 26, learned she had celiac disease—an autoimmune disorder caused by a reaction to the gluten protein found in wheat and grains like barley and rye—about 10 years ago. Her daughters, Melissa and Nicole, share the condition. Instead of being discouraged, Berzins embraced the opportunity to adapt recipes. “Nothing can replicate that elastic gluten quality,” she says. “So we have to mimic and create blends that, by way of chemistry, give us the results that we want. I love the challenge. How can I make a great, kick-butt muffin without wheat flour?” This fall, she hopes to begin shipping her bread nationwide. “The need for gluten-free food is exponentially growing,” she says. “There’s not a whole lot of quality that’s filling that void. That’s the blessing and the niche that I have. People are looking for this and I can fill that need.”