Center for Plant-Based Living to close in Kirkwood, making way for Britt’s Bakehouse to expand

When the Center for Plant-Based Living closes its doors in downtown Kirkwood on June 30, Britt’s Bakehouse will take over the space just one door away from its current location. The expansion gives the popular gluten-free bakery room to ramp up production and to offer customers a sit-down café experience.

Caryn Dugan founded the Center for Plant-Based Living (131 W. Jefferson), the nation’s first plant-based nutrition and culinary education center, in 2019 as an extension of her online cooking and nutrition program, STLVegGirl.

Britt Royal opened her storefront (137 W. Jefferson) the same year to meet the demand that her gluten-free baked goods were generating among customers at her Kirkwood Farmers’ Market stand. Here’s what to expect for both businesses going forward.

Britt’s Bakehouse

In the five years that the bakery has been open, Britt’s Bakehouse has established a loyal core of customers looking for gluten-free items, as well as a large base of fans who simply love Royal’s baked goods, whether or not the pastries contain wheat flour.

“It’s such a blessing,” she says. “We’ve had really good support, not just from the gluten-free community but from St. Louis in general. Everything has spread through word of mouth, and keeping up with production is our biggest challenge.”

Although she and her business partners are in the very early stages of planning, she says they do have some specific objectives related to the expansion. “Our intention is to utilize the space to increase production,” she says. Not only will they be able to look at baking more types of items, but they also won’t have to cut off orders as frequently due to reaching production capacity. “We’re really crammed into our current production space, so this will allow new projects to flourish,” she says.

Royal anticipates that one of the storefronts will be dedicated to production and the other will be the retail side, where they plan to add seating and additional coffee options, such as espresso and house-made syrups. There will also be small touches, such as a microwave dedicated to gluten-free items, where customers can warm up their purchases before enjoying them.

She emphasized that none of the current menu items will be discontinued, and the bakery won’t close during the transition. “There might be some small tweaks to the menu, but people should not worry about their favorite items going away,” she says, adding that she understands why there would be concern because it can be difficult to find certain gluten-free baked goods. “It’s an expression of love for our product that people get nervous when there’s a change to our menu,” she says.

Both spaces have the same landlord, and her staff has held steady for a couple of years, so Royal expects minimal disruption while scaling up. The bakery’s next steps include coming up with a plan and presenting it to the appropriate government offices for approval.

“It has been a really interesting ride, opening just before the pandemic in November 2019,” Royal says. “It made us realize how important careful planning is.”

Center for Plant-Based Living

Dugan says she made the decision to close the Center for Plant-Based Living because the world has become more accepting of virtual programming since the pandemic. 

STLVegGirl continues to grow and evolve, as does Dugan’s online video collaboration with Dr. Jim Loomis, The Doc & Chef. The duo takes top nutrition topics and builds a 10- to 20-minute video and a blog post around each one, drawing upon Dugan’s culinary expertise and Loomis’ insights as a practicing lifestyle medicine clinician and the medical director at the Physician’s Committee in Washington, D.C. He also served as the medical director for the Center for Plant-Based Living.  

“CPBL will remain an entity online,” Dugan says via email. “We will still offer classes, [and] a robust membership—and it houses The Doc & Chef.” 

The center’s virtual membership will continue to offer an on-demand library of plant-based cooking classes, access to interactive live virtual cooking classes, and a monthly accountability and support group call with Dugan, a certified health and wellness coach. “It’s important that we remain relevant and do what gains traction,” she says, referring to a side project that involves writing recipes for the military.  

Dugan says the Kirkwood community is “the greatest,” but she felt she was being pulled in too many directions and decided to focus on her fast-growing online projects. “In the future I will bring both entities together,” she says, “something I’ve been needing to do for a while.”

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