The fifth joint business from chef-owners Mark Rooks and Ridgway Grace will bring sweet and savory goods to those with dietary restrictions.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 7, 2019
It seems like serial entrepreneurs Mark Rooks and Ridgway Grace may have finally outgrown the number of businesses they can fit into the building at 14 Tanner Street.
Headquarters to the couple’s Rent-a-Chef, Inc. catering business and its Meals2Go delivery service, the Beast of the Street food truck, and the 15-month-old Haddonfield Donut Company, the location will also serve as the launchpad for their latest endeavor: Bleu Bear Bakery.
It’s a return to baking for Grace, who once operated the boutique bake shop My Little Kupkake in downtown Collingswood, albeit an unplanned one.
“I had no intentions of opening another business with a six-month-old, but you know how it goes,” she said.
How it went: the closure of Posh Pop Bakery, one of the last remaining gluten-free bake shops in the area (Sweet Freedom rolled back into Philadelphia a couple years ago), drove customers with dietary restrictions right into the arms of the nearby Donut Company.
“We had massive amounts of people coming in totally ticked off because [Posh Pop] was the only place in town,” Grace said. “I said, ‘I think we need to jump on this.’ You know when there’s a need in the community, and I was hearing it.”
That was at the end of March; on Saturday, Bleu Bear opens its doors for the first time.
“It kind of just fell in our laps,” Grace said.
The menu will leverage some of the products from the couple’s complementary businesses.
To boot: Bleu Bear will serve more than 30 varieties of hot and fresh, gluten-free donuts daily, plus cookies, cake pops, pies, tarts, cinnamon rolls, and more.
Savory items will include freshly baked breads, soft pretzels, tomato pie, and breakfast sandwiches.
Bleu Bear will also roll out a crepe and waffle menu in the coming weeks. Grace said her intention is to offer a comprehensive menu for those with a variety of dietary restrictions.
“People with allergies lose out on getting something special made for them,” she said. “People want to have it taste like it’s not gluten-free; they want to have old classics that they haven’t been able to have.”
Bleu Bear Bakery will keep the same hours as Posh Pop did: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Its grand opening will be Saturday, June 8.
As for the name of the new bakery, it’s derived from an old family safety check.
“When my daughter Kendall was really young, we said, ‘If anybody tries to come pick you up, tell them to ask for the password,’” Rooks said.
“The password was ‘blue bear.’”
Now at 17, Kendall’s working full-time at her parents’ businesses, and she wants to go to culinary school next.
The youngest in the family, baby Indigo, isn’t ready to help just yet, but at six months old, she’s never far away from mom and dad—or the kitchen.
“Being self-employed offers you flexibility you wouldn’t have otherwise,” Grace said. “It offers us pockets of time with our children that we wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s also really cool to see the whole experience through their eyes.
“Do we work hard?” she said. “Yeah. Do we bust our butts? Yes, but it’s to be able to provide that experience for our kids. It’s why we keep going.”
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