Gluten Free Prairie, the local family-owned business that manufactures and packages delicious gluten-free food products at 116 East Main Street has announced that it will re-open on Saturday, August 16 during the community’s annual Potato Festival.

The Wheaton family started this vibrant Montana business when co-owner Deb Wheaton and her daughter Amy discovered that they had Celiac disease.  Celiac is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the intestines and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. Essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with Celiac consumes gluten which is found in products containing wheat, rye or barley.

The grand re-opening is a long time coming in a journey of ups and downs.

In the spring of 2013, the family was developing their business producing their products in California and shipping them out of Montana.  They yearned to do everything locally.  So, they purchased a 100 year-old building on Main Street in Manhattan and started renovations to house Gluten Free Prairie’s headquarters. In November that year, the company received a $50,000 matching grant from Montana’s Growth through Agriculture Program to assist them in purchasing new processing equipment. In January 2014, GFP’s Granola Bites were voted 1st Runner Up in GFreek’s 4th Annual Gluten-Free Awards.  Business was booming and GFP continued to grow its fan base amongst both consumers with Celiac disease and others looking for gluten-free dietary options.

Then, just two weeks prior to their scheduled opening on March 6, 2014, everything changed.  An early spring run-off caused waters to rise and completely flood Main Street in Manhattan, which devastated the Gluten-Free Prairie bakery. With at least $50,000 in damages, no flood relief, FEMA or SBA funds available, the future looked grim for the start-up company. “They said there weren’t enough businesses affected for us to qualify for flood relief,” Deb explains. But always a fierce optimist, she searched for the silver lining.  Deb reminded the family that the flood didn’t ruin the $1,000 of gluten-free oats she had just purchased to make her treats or her industrial-sized mixer. GFP’s brand new $30,000 oven would have been in the bakery had it not been delayed due to bad weather on the East Coast. Finally some good news! The family vowed to re-open, while customers and community members rallied around the Wheatons, sending supportive texts and emails bringing food and water to the weary family. 

And so, with most of the hard work and tears behind them, the Gluten-Free Prairie will re-open their bakery and officially thank the supportive community of 1,549 this Saturday, August 16th, during the Annual Potato Festival in Manhattan with plenty of samples. Their products will also be showcased in Booth #40 on the Festival Grounds.