Growing up with a severe peanut and tree nut allergy, Kelsey Munger ’14 couldn’t risk eating the cakes at friends’ birthday parties. She had to bring her own food to school celebrations, and she never experienced the simple joy of picking out a sweet treat from a bakery.
So, as a teenager, she started baking for herself.
“This way, I, too, could eat delicious things that I knew were safe for me,” Munger said.
Now, her decadent peanut- and tree nut-free confections have amassed a loyal following of customers with and without allergies. Last year, after finding success selling her baked goods at farmers markets, Munger opened Lavender Bee Baking Co. in a storefront she shares with two business partners—one operates a coffeehouse and the other sells vinyl records—called Monumental Market, in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.
“We wanted to create a space that had that farmers market vibe, but under one roof and year-round,” she said.
Monumental Market opened in February 2020, and the first month couldn’t have gone better. “We had lines out the door, and the community really embraced us,” Munger remembered.
And then, COVID-19.
“March 14, we closed our doors. But in a way, being so new worked in our favor. People weren’t used to us being in one mold, and we were able to pivot and be flexible,” Munger said. “We started offering baking kits and special-order pick-up days, and we really had the chance to engage with the customers. By the time we were able to have customers in the store again, we had a nice base of regulars and it has only grown from there.”
Fan favorites include pop-tarts, which Munger makes with seasonal fillings—“I’m currently making brown sugar hot chocolate ones, and they are flying off the shelves,” she said—as well as banana chocolate-chip bread, Key lime pie bars, vegan scones and custom birthday cakes.
All of the options are 100 percent peanut and tree nut free, and Munger ensures all ingredients are not packed in shared facilities to avoid cross-contamination. She also offers a variety of dairy-free, vegan and gluten-free options.
Many of Munger’s customers don’t have allergies—they just come for the locally made sweets and the one-of-a-kind ambiance that earned Monumental Market the title of Best Coffee Shop in Boston Magazine’s 2021 Best of Boston edition. But for the ones that do, Munger says she is thrilled to provide them with goodies they can enjoy worry free.
“I love seeing parents say to their kids, ‘You can pick anything.’ And the kids are so surprised. ‘Anything? All of this is safe?’ It warms my heart that I can give them the experience I never had.”