Silly Yak

Gluten-free bread sits on a cooling rack in the kitchen at Silly Yak Bakery. “Making good bread motivates me,” said owner Kyle Mook, who bought the business in 2015.

Gluten-free bread and bakery items are more widely available, which created more competition for Madison's dedicated gluten-free bakery and has led to Silly Yak calling it quits at the end of the month.

Its last day will be March 31, and the business at 7866 Mineral Point Road is taking its last gluten-free orders for shipping on Thursday.

"The big thing is, it's just become harder and harder to source ingredients for gluten free," said Kyle Mook, who bought Silly Yak Bakery from original owner Holly Beach in 2015. "And gluten free is not a simple or easy thing to do."

Beach started the business in 2002 because she wanted to bake bread and treats everyone could enjoy. Initially, Silly Yak dedicated one day a week to gluten-free baking, later adding a second.

The name is a play on the word celiac, an autoimmune disease where those affected have trouble digesting gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. It's estimated to affect 1 percent of people worldwide and those with the disorder can become seriously ill if they eat foods containing gluten.

Many people without the disease have eliminated or reduced their intake of gluten as a health trend over the last decade.

"So many people are offering gluten-free items. The competition's gotten larger," Mook said. "More national brands are doing more things. Our sales have gone down, and along with the difficulty in sourcing -- just everything with running a bakery."

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At first, few businesses nationwide had a dedicated gluten-free bakery, which is why Silly Yak did a lot of online orders.

But because more gluten-free items are now available in grocery stores, sales have been dipping, Mook said.

Silly Yak also supplies more than 20 coffee shops, cafes and restaurants, in and out of state, said Mook, who before he bought Silly Yak, worked at Panera Bread for 10 years. He was also a baker before that.

He said he was looking for a change of pace when the bakery went on the market, but he doesn't follow a gluten-free diet himself.

Mook also owns the Bread Barn bakery in the same space and is selling both businesses to another baker who he said intends to run the wheat side as a bakery and make crackers on the gluten-free side.

Right now, all of Mook's customers are trying to get in their last Silly Yak orders. "We're doing everything we can just to keep up with it," he said. "We're playing a lot of catch up."

He said he's received many well wishes and said customers are sad to see him go. But "trying to explain to people the nature of a small business and a small bakery is kind of difficult," Mook said.

Read more restaurant news at go.madison.com/restaurantnews.


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