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Craft Kafe creates the ultimate bakery experience without using gluten

Mark Parker

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Teddy Skiadiotis created the Craft Kafe as a safe haven for the gluten intolerant. Photo provided.

Growing up in his family’s restaurants, Teddy Skiadiotis would empathize with customers that had celiac disease or were gluten intolerant; so, he decided to turn that empathy into a successful café and bakery.

Skiadiotis was born and raised in Queens, New York, and spent much of his childhood in his father’s coffee shop. He loved being in the restaurant and started working for his dad when he was 13 years old. He would go on to Fordham University and began a career as a proprietary trader on Wall Street, but soon became disenchanted with his career due to the stress. Plus, he missed working with people and seeing their reactions when he was could do something nice for them.

In 2004, Skiadiotis came to Florida to help with his family’s latest restaurant, Skidders, on St. Pete Beach. He fell in love with the area and would officially move to the state in 2007. Soon after, a waitress came to him frustrated with an older lady who “couldn’t eat anything.” Skiadiotis was not pleased with her reaction to the customer, who he found out had celiac disease.

“A lightbulb went off in my head,” said Skiadiotis. He asked the lady to come back the next day and told her he would buy the specialty flour and ingredients needed to make her a gluten-free pizza from scratch – at no charge. The lady was so pleased with the gesture she made Skiadiotis an elaborate, homemade card to show her thanks.

“She hadn’t had pizza in 15 years,” said Skiadiotis. “And she was so grateful.”

Skiadiotis, who had been interested in the gluten-free concept since reading a New York Post article in 1999, immediately went and bought a separate toaster so people could have gluten-free toast with their breakfast. Then came gluten-free pasta, in addition to the pizzas. Skiadiotis said that Skidders had been open for 15 years, and within six months became the first result when someone would Google “gluten-free St. Pete.”

“We were selling 300 to 400 items a week,” he said. “In a diner that was already open and wasn’t known for that.”

Skiadiotis would begin making desserts, and while shopping at an organic supermarket, he wondered if there was a gluten-free bakery for people like that older lady. “In that place of empathy,” as he called it, he began to Google “gluten-free bakeries” and was dismayed at the results. So, he decided to do something about it.

Next door to the supermarket was a vacant building, and Skiadiotis asked the manager of the store for the landlord’s number. He called her up, “and the rest was serendipity.”

The original Craft Kafe opened in March of 2014 at 6653 Central Avenue. Its mission is to “create the ultimate bakery experience without the use of gluten.” Skiadiotis stone mills his own flour and gives the coffee and tea the same dedication as his bakery. Watching the reaction from first-time customers that realize everything in the café is 100% gluten-free means the world to Skiadiotis.

“I get the chills every time I see their faces,” he said. “It’s life-affirming. I opened it as a legacy project, and there’s no monetary value on that reaction.”

Skiadiotis said that people go on a journey through life in which they are always trying to find meaning. He is creating a safe haven where people that cannot have gluten do not need to worry, and all their questions are already answered due to his foresight. Once again, he mentions “that place of empathy I have for the outliers.”

Skiadiotis said he learned his most valuable lesson on the first day he went to work for his father. As they were opening at 5:30 in the morning, his father took him to the door and told him in a heavy Greek accent that it was not simply a door – it was an opportunity that should be treated with respect.

“It’s not a door,” his father said. “Whoever chooses to come here can go to 1,000 other restaurants. You treat this like your religion and be grateful they are coming inside.”

Skiadiotis has carried that message with him throughout the years and recites it to new employees.

In March of 2018, Skiadiotis opened up a second Craft Kafe at 200 Central Ave., and a Tampa location is in the works. There are also plans for a café in south St. Pete, which will feature a wholesale business in the back. He said his goal has always been to provide products that do not have time or the will to make gluten-free products. After that, he hopes to see his dough and mixes in supermarkets.

Craft Kafe’s second location in downtown St. Petersburg. Photo provided.

“Companies pay a lot of money for product development,” said Skiadiotis. “We’ve been doing it live the whole time.”

Skiadiotis says he owes his success to the St. Pete community and the unique “vibe” it possesses. He recalled telling his friends in New York his idea to open up a gluten-free bakery years ago and how they were against it simply because it was different. That was not the case here.

“St. Pete is such a cool place – sometimes we’re way ahead of the game,” said Skiadiotis. “You can do things and be creative, and people will acknowledge it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jennie Ibarguen

    September 17, 2021at3:44 pm

    Our family loves Skidders and Craft Kafe! Teddy is a great guy and I enjoyed the backstory.

  2. Avatar

    Tiana Cain

    September 18, 2021at12:22 pm

    I love Craft Kafe’s food and yesterday I had to have their date filled pastry!
    Teddy is creative and comes up with new ideas all the time.
    He’s a great guy.

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