They say good things come in small packages. A diamond ring in a Tiffany’s box, everlasting love and cuddles from a young puppy, unconditional friendship from the 5’1” fireball you call your best friend. We find so much wonder in grandeur and greatness that we often ignore the small things in life making every day a little better.
This sentiment remains when it comes to the places we choose to spend our time. Call me crazy, but I’d prefer a studio apartment in New York City to a mansion in Texas any day. We are told to “think big” and “go big or go home,” but why? Why get lost in a labyrinth of open space when a cozy, personalized place is waiting for you, opening its arms to welcome you in.
In Ann Arbor, there are plenty of snug spots peppered throughout campus and around Main St., all with their own flair and unique elements. One common thread between many of these homey hubs is their size: small — minuscule, even. There’s something about a comfortably tight space that heightens a sense of intimacy, a sense that this place is yours and no one else’s.
Tucked around the corner of a strip mall-like building on East Huron, covered in fall decor, stands Tasty Bakery: a gluten-free bakery owned by husband and wife duo Julie and Ran Rabinovitz. When I walked in, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the size; it was the feeling the place gave me. Every detail was added for a reason, from the hand-drawn tags marking the baked goods in the case, to the trinkets placed on a vintage white vanity. Everything worked off of everything else: The red and white twine connecting the labels complimented the red clock and chairs by the window. Even the freshly baked treats in the display seemed like they were all a part of the design.
When I sat down to talk to Julie Rabinovitz — who started the business at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market in May 2009 — it was like sitting down with an old friend. She is pleasant, joyous and friendly, everything you’d expect from someone that makes delicious sweets and snacks for a living.
Rabinovitz initially worked in graphic design and lived in Brooklyn, but when the couple had their first son and decided to move to Ann Arbor, she decided to finally listen to her grandmother’s advice and become a full-time baker.
“I started at the farmers market but as I went on I started picking up stores,” Rabinovitz said in an interview with The Daily. “I was by myself at the time and Lab Cafe was the first place I got. At the time, my husband was changing jobs and decided he wanted to help, so we became a family-owned business and now our products are sold in about 18 cafes and stores around Ann Arbor.”
Although they loved the farmer’s market, the couple thought it was time they set up a permanent location. And a little over three years ago, they got lucky and found the perfect spot.
“It was something we wanted to do for a while,” she said. “I had a vision for what I wanted and I knew exactly the font I wanted for my logo and I knew the colors I wanted to use and what I wanted the place to look like.”
Now that they have their location, the couple makes it as personalized as possible.
“For a long time, we had people at the market asking us: ‘Where’s your place?’ We are able to offer more here and give an environment for people to come and see what we do,” she said. “We welcome people back into our kitchen and we are able to really talk to them.”
Another thing that sets the bakery apart is their baking methods. Tasty Bakery is a completely gluten-free kitchen and accommodates other allergies as well. They offer a variety of vegan options and use the best ingredients they can find.
“We use really high-end ingredients and use organic wherever we can find it,” Rabinovitz said. “We use healthier ingredients like organic coconut oil, olive oil, things that are just better for you.”
An important pillar of the bakery is to make food that absolutely everyone can enjoy, no matter disease or allergy.
“Our vegan things are sweetened with organic coconut sugar or nectar, which is low glycemic so most diabetics can enjoy it too,” Rabinovitz said. “We really try to accommodate most allergies so we really personalize in that respect.”
When they can, the Rabinovitz couple uses locally made products, such as peanut butter from Traverse City, fruits and vegetables from the farmers market and chocolate from Mindo chocolate makers in Dexter.
Rabinovitz said their baking methods are often what makes them so close with customers.
“I’ll talk to someone for hours when they come in,” she said. “Because of what we do, because we work with people that do have health issues we talk a lot to people about health and what they can eat and what they can’t, and how that affects them.”
Even if you don’t have an allergy or dietary restriction, you shouldn’t be discouraged from eating at this delightful bakery. Just a short conversation with Ran or Julie or a bite of their delicious sweets will brighten up your entire day. They may not be big but they sure are mighty, and this little Ann Arbor gem is here to make that known.