Natalie McEachern, the owner and baker at Belmont's Glutenus Minimus, has been busy telling her neighbors that she is not opening the equivalent of a wheat-free McDonald's on Belmont Street.
"I few of them freaked out until I told them the whole story," said McEachern, who opened her no-gluten bakery in October, 2010.
McEachern had to reassure abutters and others when they received notice in the past weeks from the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals that Glutenus Minimus would be seeking to convert its retail operation into a "fast food establishment."
But the 31-year-old Arlington native is not seeking to turn her single location bakery into a high-turnover restaurant with cars seeking parking spaces in the narrow side streets.
"It's just this terminology the town uses when you request to add seating at your store," said McEachern.
In fact, a total of four tables with two chairs each will be coming into the shop's newly-expanded space, an empty store front that abutted the bakery/store at 697 Belmont St.
The doubling of her square-footage was needed as McEachern's business has seen a steady increase in business not just for her fresh made and packaged goodies – cookies, cupcakes, muffins and baking mixes – but now a business speciality: gluten-free wedding cakes.
"That was the real reason for the tables," said McEachern. "We are having brides and their families sample our cakes and we wanted them to have someplace where they could sit down and enjoy it."
In addition, her shop – which caters to those suffering from Celiac disease, an inherited, autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in wheat, rye and oats and those seeking healthier diets – has become a destination retail location where on Saturdays people will drive from all across Massachusetts and come from New Hampshire, Maine and as far as Upstate New York to make weekly and monthly shopping purchases.
"It would be nice not to have them stand around and have the opportunity to relax and have a coffee and something to eat," said McEachern.
In addition, the added space allows the store to stock more staples – snacks, produce, bags of fine flour – so customers can have a "one-stop shopping" experience for their wheat-free needs, said McEachern.
And while you can't come into the store and expect to get a "fast food" meal, Glutenus Minimus is selling gluten-free pizza slices at lunch.