new vegan bakery rises in ohio city's ever-expanding market district

A new bakery on W. 25th Street is out to prove that dairy-free desserts can be just as addictive as the most decadent slice of chocolate cake -- while also cutting back on the calories, health risks, and guilt associated with many of our favorite vices.

Just ask Margaret Bilyeau, owner of the newly opened Maggie's Vegan Bakery, who boasts of her vegan "chocolate" cupcakes with "cream cheese" icing: "You need to come try them -- they're wonderful."

That shouldn't be too hard; she offers free samples to customers who stop in her store, located at 1830 W. 25th Street in Ohio City's ever-expanding Market District.

Bilyeau first started baking professionally in 1994. She sold her goods at farmers markets and the now-closed Food Co-op on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. Advised by a Co-op employee that she should start baking vegan because few others were serving that market, Bilyeau started doing just that.

But first she had to learn what being vegan actually means. "I said to him, 'What's that? How do you do it?'" she says. "He told me, 'You have to figure it out.' At the time, not very many people were doing it. It's a much bigger market now."

Although Bilyeau prepares her vegan baked goods strictly sans dairy, her customers aren't limited to hardcore vegans or vegetarians. Increasingly, they are also heart patients or elderly people that can't eat dairy for health reasons, or people who aren't consuming dairy products because of religious reasons.

Bilyeau also makes gluten-free baked goods to serve another growing market -- people with Celiac Disease who are allergic to wheat, rye and barley. "It's hard to find fresh gluten-free bread," she says. "It's flying off of the shelves."

Her ultimate goal is to ramp up her distribution business and ensure that more restaurants in Cleveland carry vegan and gluten-free desserts and other baked goods.

Bilyeau chose Ohio City because she shops at the West Side Market and saw new businesses opening up in the area.

"We're right between the new Mexican restaurant, Orale, and Johnnyville Slugger," she says. "I love being here."

Source: Margaret Bilyeau
Writer: Lee Chilcote