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Rachel Sokolewicz at Retrobaked

Jim's Small Batch Bakery, a Gulf Gate mainstay, and Bradenton's Retrobaked—located in Village of the Arts and known for its vegan, gluten-free treats—are both closing their doors this month so the owners can focus on their health.

Rachel Sokolewicz, Retrobaked's owner, says the desire to open her bakery grew from being diagnosed with celiac disease. "As many of you know, the driving force behind my desire to bake gluten-free, plant-based treats was food allergies and health issues of my own. It's brought me great joy to [spend my days] creating delicious treats for those who usually go without: fellow celiacs, vegans, and everyone in-between," she wrote on Facebook. "But my own health has worsened over the years, and I’ve recently been diagnosed with a handful of serious conditions, including late stage Lyme disease. The thing with chronic illness and Lyme is that they are extremely difficult to treat, and require strict dedication to healing with abundant rest and no stress (quite the opposite of bakery life). While my heart desperately wants to continue baking for you all, my body is literally shutting down and telling me to rest."

In her post, Sokolewicz adds that she hopes to return to baking after taking time to rest and heal. "I have far too many creations I haven't shared yet!" she says. In the meantime, the bakery will be open to the public one last time during Village of the Arts' Art Walk on Friday, May 4, serving up a menu of "greatest hits" including cupcakes, cookies, brownies and bars. Visit retrobaked.com for more details.

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Cookies from Jim's Small Batch

Jim's Small Batch owner James Plocharsky was equally candid in sharing that his health was also forcing him to hit pause on bakery life.

"I will take time off and undergo [back] surgery that I've postponed for far too long," he wrote on the Jim's Small Batch Facebook page, noting that over the past two years, the pain in his back has gotten worse—to the point of "now near complete numbness" in his legs.

"I decided last month that I can't do it any more; I can no longer hide it from customers," Plocharsky added. "My productivity as a dynamo chef has been reduced to about 25 percent speed and efficiency." Jim's Small Batch will close May 8-May 28, so head in before then to get your fix. 

Update: Jim's Small Batch Bakery is once again open for business. You can also visit the bakery's Facebook page for more details and updates.

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