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My youngest daughter, Eleanor, who’s 24, has Down syndrome. When she started junior high, my wife and I began to think about her future. We wanted to develop a way for her to have an independent life and gainful employment.
At the time, I was also feeling a little burned out by family medicine, which I’ve practiced in our small Wyoming town since 1999. I had always liked to bake, and I got the idea to start a bakery, which Eleanor could work in. I searched online for baking schools, and the first hit was for Marda Stoliar’s International School of Baking in Bend, Oregon, which claimed it could teach someone how to start a bakery in 20 days. I was skeptical. How could that work?
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As it turned out, the school is basically Marda herself, who takes on just one apprentice at a time. In 20 days, she teaches the essential recipes and skills to establish a start-up bakery. I went through the program — while keeping my medical practice — and we began selling baked goods from home.
We were able to open a brick-and-mortar store in 2015, the year before Eleanor graduated from high school. It was a big leap of faith — I was terrified, honestly — but it has worked out. The shop has become a real business, with a staff. It’s also a place where Eleanor can have a busy day and a productive life.
Through the shop, Eleanor has met people from all over the country; it has given her a sense of connectedness. She works the cash register and has a good camaraderie with her coworkers. Everybody in town knows who she is.
The bakery has definitely been a big win for our family, though I think it also does something for our community and beyond. It helps people to see just how much someone like Eleanor can accomplish when given an opportunity.
Ezdan Fluckiger, M.D., 56, practices family medicine in Torrington, Wyoming, where he and his wife, Lisa, operate the Bread Doctor bakery.