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Willmar baker closes shop due to gluten allergy

WILLMAR -- Even though she's stopped eating the made-from-scratch, French-inspired pastries that she and her husband make at their family-owned Willmar bakery, just working with the flour has made Christina Hanson's gluten allergy so bad that the...

Travis and Christina Hanson
Travis and Christina Hanson will close their Willmar business, Timeless Traditions Cakes & Confections, 6 p.m. Dec. 24. Christina developed a gluten allergy, which has made it impossible for her to work alongside her husband in the family-owned operation. (TRIBUNE/Rand Middleton)

WILLMAR - Even though she’s stopped eating the made-from-scratch, French-inspired pastries that she and her husband make at their family-owned Willmar bakery, just working with the flour has made Christina Hanson’s gluten allergy so bad that the couple has decided to close their business.
Timeless Traditions Cakes & Confections, 1108 First Street South in Willmar, is set to close 6 p.m. Dec. 24.
It was an extremely difficult decision for the young couple, who opened the bakery in May of 2012 as a new career path after Travis Hanson was injured in a crane-operating incident in 2007.
After attending culinary school in Hibbing and a French pastry school in Chicago where Travis displayed a unique talent for creating hand-crafted pastries, the Hansons made a mark in the community with their artisan breads, rolls, macaroons, salambos, scones, lefse and fondant-covered cakes.
But now it’s Christina’s health that is taking the couple on a new, somewhat unknown career path.
The Hansons said they are people of strong faith, and they are confident that the closure of the bakery’s door will mean the opening of a new door.
Christina started experiencing health problems a year ago with fatigue. Given that she and her husband work 12 to 15 hours a day at the bakery and homeschool their two young daughters, being rundown would seem normal.
But then the coughing fits and asthma attacks hit, Christina said.
Tests showed she had developed a gluten allergy.
She quit eating anything with gluten, including the bread she so loves that she and Travis make, and she started wearing a face mask to reduce breathing in fine flour particles.
“The flour kind of sits in my lungs,” said Christina, who uses a nebulizer to help improve her breathing.
In September of this year, with her health continuing to deteriorate, they reduced business hours to three days a week.
But watching his wife suffer was too difficult, Travis said, and they made the decision to close.
He said if Christiana had not insisted on continuing through the holidays to meet the needs of their customers, he would have closed the bakery in August.
“She’s the saving grace,” he said.
Timeless Traditions has always been a “labor of love,” said Christina.
But now it appears love - and allergies - has won over labor.
“I’m sad,” Travis said, but optimistic about the future. “It’s opening up a new chapter in our lives.”
There are job prospects in the near future for Travis, and the Hansons hope to eventually operate a food truck.
Christina said she feels guilty that her health means closing the family business.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. I’m proud of my husband,” she said. “We want people to know we tried our hardest.”
Although they lease the space, the Hansons hope someone will buy their bakery equipment and keep a business going.
“If I wasn’t sick, we’d be signing another three-year lease,” Christina said.
The Hansons said their loyal customers have made the venture a positive experience. “They are the biggest support system we could’ve ever asked for,” Christina said.

Christina Hanson
Christina Hanson frosts cupcakes at Timeless Traditions Cakes & Confections in Willmar. She frequently wears a medical mask to work. (TRIBUNE/Rand Middleton)

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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