Colossal stainless-steel beer fermenters and snaking bottling machinery made an odd backdrop as Wee Thistle Bakery offered samples of Scottish shortbread delicacies across the floor from K-9 Doggie Bakery, stacked cases of dark Hopjob Session IPA bottles towering above.

Thousands descended upon Foothills Brewing Tasting Room venue several miles southwest of the downtown brewpub for the inaugural Triad Dessert Market on Oct. 13. Loves Desserts, an organization that typically organizes dessert-centered events in Charlotte, brought the concept to the Triad.

Some of the more than two dozen vendors took a cue from the first truly crisp morning of October and dressed their tables in autumnal décor like Baked Just So owner Stacey Milner who positioned some of her boxed confections in a classic bright red Radio Flyer wagon. Since opening her bakery and coffee shop last year, she’s homed in on classic pastries and experimented with new flavors and baking methods in response to specialty cake requests from customers.

“I love to be challenged and if you ask, I’ll research it and do it,” she says.

As much as she loves recreating Italian apricot tarts from customers’ memories, she makes sure to have ice cream sandwiches on hand for kids.

“I really wanted to create an environment, a coffee shop, you could bring kids to and it’s a meeting place for families, “Milner says. “It’s okay if a baby cries in here or runs around. We try to keep [breakable] things high, and it’s just not a big deal.”

Her brick and mortar location features a kids’ corner with chalkboard walls, a small table and a nearby assortment of children’s books.

“It feels amazing to see kids in here reading these books that I read to my children.”

Milner was hardly the only business-owning mom representing at the market.

Zaria’s Milk owner Phyllis Caldwell-George and her daughter-in-law Brianna Holland opened their e-commerce business in September 2017 after Holland found herself struggling to produce enough breast milk to feed her newborn daughter, Zaria. Holland, who is vice president of the company, says she found most lactation-boosting cookies hard and tasteless.

“I found myself not able to eat them, these products that would benefit me and my child,” Holland says. “I was desperate for anything to work so I went online, found various ingredients people kept talking about… and I found some basic recipes.”

“Brianna reached out to me because she was experiencing low milk supply and she asked me to bake her some lactation cookies with these ingredients,” Caldwell-George says. “One of my colleagues, his wife was also experiencing that. She loved the cookies and made a post [about them] and then her friends started messaging me…. It seemed to be that there is a need, so I started the website, put these cookies out there, started the social media page and now we ship cookies everywhere. There are tons of moms who are looking for support, sharing information about their experience [on social media].”

Holland explains that the stress of low milk production among other stressors can compound the issue. She and her mother-in-law utilize ingredients like oatmeal, brewer’s yeast and flaxseed meal in their Zaria’s Milk products to encourage lactation.

“Breastfeeding is something that is natural but not easy and research shows there are huge discrepancies between women of color and white women, and what it takes to continue breastfeeding,” Holland, who holds a master’s in public health, says. “Knowing there’s these discrepancies, these barriers, helps me bring that perspective into what we do as a company at large.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women struggle with breastfeeding because they tend to have to return to work earlier, receive less information about breastfeeding from their health-care providers and have less access to professional support.

“We’re listening to the customers, listening to what the mothers were experiencing and trying to support those mothers who are still trying to breastfeed,” Caldwell-George says. “Whatever works for you and your baby, maybe using some formula, we want to help support you.”

“Ninety-five percent of our moms say their milk production increased, and they saw the content of their milk change,” Caldwell-George continues. “We’ve got some data to support that as well and we’ll be putting that information out soon to our customers… [but] you can’t guarantee that for everyone, like any other product.”

She and Holland also offer lactation-boosting muffins and brownies, but any of their treats can be made-to-order without galactagogues gluten-free, dairy free options included. Caldwell-George is even working on a lactation pancake mix. The duo says their oatmeal chocolate chip cookies tend to be customers’ favorite until they venture out to try more daring options like blueberry lemon white chocolate oatmeal cookies.

“As we say on the website [these cookies] increased my milk supply by like two ounces and my milk was much richer and thicker than before,” Holland says. “But at the end of the day, any excuse to eat a tasty cookie is a great excuse.”

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