Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is There a Celiac in the House?

A number of years ago, we moved to New York City from Central Pennsylvania, and I needed to find a new family doctor. Not being very attuned to city life, it wasn’t the easiest of things to do. Although there are a gazillion physicians in New York City, finding a good one to whom I could relate was a challenge. I made an appointment with a family medicine specialist near our apartment, and showed up on time. The waiting room was empty, which should have been a clue, but that was before I learned life lessons like you never eat at a restaurant with an empty dining room or ride in an empty car on the NY Subway. I waited, and waited. About 35 minutes went by. No one came in, no one left, just the receptionist behind her glass window (bullet proof?) and me. Suddenly the front door opened and an office assistant walked in carrying the morning mail.

“Just give me the financial magazines, and throw the rest away,” the receptionist said. “The doctor doesn’t care about anything but the financial ones.” Whoa.

I promptly got up and walked out, thus continuing my search for a family physician. I didn’t think I was asking a lot to want a physician who was motivated by practicing medicine more than money.

I guess I feel the same way about gluten free good manufacturers. I prefer to patronize a company run by someone who is gluten free or otherwise dietary-challenged, who is passionate about making a difference. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against companies motivated by a business opportunity who leverage their gluten-based brand names to promote their gluten free brands. But, there is a special connection in celiac-run companies between the company and the customer that promotes a feeling of commitment and trustworthiness.

As more mainstream companies produce gluten free alternatives, I fear that we are losing that connection. What’s worse is that some of the gluten free pioneers are falling by the wayside. In the words of Tiffany Janes at The Essential Gluten Free Blog, “Like it or not, large companies that can make a ton of food for less money than the ‘little guys’ will hurt many companies. The ingredients that larger companies use might not be as healthy, but many people are more concerned with paying less than buying healthier products.”

That was also precisely the topic of the editorial in the latest issue of Gluten Free Living, which lamented the closure of Mr. Ritts. Today, June 30, is the last day of baking for Paul Kelty, a gluten free pioneer and founder of Mr Ritts, a Philadelphia area gluten free bakery (although he will continue to market baking mixes.) Mr. Ritts is not only an exceptional gluten free baker, but also a warm, generous person who provided invaluable advice when we began our operation more than three years ago. Mr.Ritts, we wish you the best of luck in the newest iteration of your business.


Hajo said...

TLC, thanks for sharing this story and your approach to select the people to service you and products to buy. Guess part of your experience can be explained by the difference between Central Pennsylvania and NYC...

I agree with you in that above all the person should care about their clients, be it patients or customers. Totally agree with your assessment of the special connection in companies producing gluten-free items. I also think that a compelling story is always a nice-to-have though not a must-have.

However, this only induces trial,the product or service obviously has to convince. But you at Going Against the Grain know that story as much as we at Custom Choice Cereal do...

Medifast Program said...

Did you ever find a doctor?