By Cecilia Chan
GSN Managing Editor
A bakery offering vegan cinnamon rolls tailored to suit just about any taste bud is coming to Gilbert.
Cinnaholic is opening its first location in Arizona this month at SanTan Village at Williams Field Road and Santan Village Parkway.
“It’s build-your-own bakery cinnamon rolls customized with 20 flavors and 20 different toppings,” said Gilbert resident Shanntel Hobbensiefken, who co-owns the franchise with her husband Aaron.
“What’s unique about it is it’s plant-based,” she said. “It’s dairy-free, egg-free, cholesterol-free and half the calories of our competitor. Our typical Old Skool Roll is 450 calories.”
However, the various toppings will increase that calorie count and cost, she added. The average cost of a regular roll is $5.50, according to Hobbensiefken.
Despite eschewing the traditional ingredients such as eggs, milk and butter that go into a cinnamon roll, there is no sacrifice in taste, according to Hobbensiefken, who’s eaten the baked goods at the Cinnaholic Bakery in Brea, California, near where she used to live.
“People are shocked when they are told it’s plant-based,” she said. “Lot of people don’t realize it’s vegan.”
Co-founders Shannon and Florian Radke launched the California-based company in 2010 with their first bakery in downtown Berkeley. Today, with the Gilbert bakery, there are 31 locations in the United States and Canada.
Shannon Radke called the couple “the perfect team to grow the Cinnaholic brand in Arizona.”
Cinnaholic is scoring rave reviews from customers, even from non-vegans.
“I’m a full on, bacon-eating omnivore and I will destroy a Cinnaholic cinnamon roll,” wrote one customer on Yelp, a crowd-sourced review forum. “Seriously, whether you are vegan or not, you will want one of these things in your face.”
Another customer wrote “it blew my mind” when she found out she was eating a vegan cinnamon roll.
“This is the first in Arizona to open, there’s really nothing that is like us,” Hobbensiefken said. “Our closest competitive is Cinnabon, where it’s not scratch-made or customized gourmet.”
Cinnaholic’s frosting flavors include lemon, chai, peanut butter, cake batter and amaretto while toppings include apples, caramel sauce and marshmallows.
Customers can stick with the classic cinnamon roll or build their own creation. Some popular cinnamon roll combinations include Blueberry Pie, Strawberries and Cream and Cookie Monster, according to the company’s website.
Other menu items include bite-sized Baby Buns, cookies, brownies and raw, edible cookie dough.
Hobbensiefken said she is working with a Gilbert coffee roaster to offer locally sourced coffee at the bakery.
Choosing to go with Cinnaholic was easy for the mom of three boys, ages 3, 4 and 5. She said no one in the family has diet issues but she knows plenty of people who do.
“I have a lot of friends who have kids with dietary restrictions, like egg and dairy intolerances,” Hobbensiefken said, adding:
“They were always struggling to find a place to take their kids. (And) I’m a mom that likes the idea of high-quality ingredients and freshness and it worked out well for our family.”
The couple is throwing 100 percent of their time into their new endeavor. Hobbensiefken’s husband left behind a career as a high school history teacher for his new gig.
“We will be working the front of the house and the back of the house,” Hobbensiefken said. “My husband and I are fully committed and will be spending lot of time baking.”
Baking is right up Hobbensiefken’s alley.
“I like to bake and to cook for my family,” she said. “I would like to bake unique things for my kids’ birthday parties, for friends and families and events. It’s always been a fun, creative outlet for me.”
The couple plans on hiring 20 to 25 part-time employees. The bakery also will offer catering for occasions such as weddings, office parties and business meetings.
“We are looking at mid-June for opening,” Hobbensiefken said.
The bakery was still under construction last week so an official opening was not yet set. But on opening day, Cinnaholic will treat customers to $1 gourmet rolls.
“I have young, very active boys that can’t wait,” Hobbensiefken said. “They’ve been a part of it and why we are doing this.”