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12/27/2023 08:30 AM

Mark Israel: A Delicious Career

After a long career in the technology industry, Mark Israel turned his passion for baking into a new job when he opened Westbrook’s Still Delicious, a gluten and allergen-free bakery. Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News

After a long career in the technology industry, Mark Israel turned his passion for baking into a new job when he opened Westbrook’s Still Delicious, a gluten and allergen-free bakery.

Located at 13 Boston Post Road in Westbrook, Still Delicious offers an array of breads, cookies, cakes, and pastries made without gluten, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, corn, dairy, or other allergens.

“We have food for walk-ins, but we also have an extensive made-to-order menu, so what you see in the store is not all we do. We do everything from a small pastry to a four-tier wedding cake made to order without different allergens, whether it’s for health reasons or lifestyle,” Mark explains.

The bakery was founded officially in 2014, but Mark says the idea for it started long before then due to some dietary concerns between him and his daughters.

“I, along with my daughters, had a hard time back then finding allergy-free baked goods that also tasted good,” Mark laments.

After finding some recipes, Mark initially was only baking for family and friends, but soon, word of his creations spread.

“Friends found my stuff to be really good,” Mark says with a laugh.

At the time, Mark was working in the technology industry but recalls he was ready for a change.

“I wanted to get off airplanes and out of hotel rooms and do something different,” Mark says.

So, he bought a vacant property that used to be an antique shop and got to work.

“I had a vision that the store would look like walking into our kitchen at home, which it does,” he says.

Since opening, Mark says that the bakery has become a haven for those with allergen or dietary restrictions.

“Back when we first opened, it was basically impossible to find the kind of foods free from the allergens we offer,” Mark explains.

While acknowledging the challenges that face most restaurants, like COVID and not overextending yourself, Mark says his favorite part of owning the bakery is the bond with the community.

“I really value working with the customers and their satisfaction when they find us. We’ve even had cases where kids have been bullied at school because they can’t eat certain foods, but then their parents bring them in here and tell them, ‘You can have anything in this store,’ and their eyes light up like a kid in a candy store, which it basically literally is,” says Mark. “That kind of appreciation and value goes a long way.”

Prior to opening the bakery, Mark worked for many years in more high-tech fields.

“I worked in audio engineering in the heyday back in the ’70s.”

In fact, Mark even got to run a concert program at Nassau Community College when Bruce Springsteen opened for Bonnie Raitt. Later on, Mark spent over a decade working for Apple. But even while he was busy in those careers, Mark still spent plenty of time in the kitchen.

“I learned to cook from my mother. She had a big family, and her mom wasn’t well, so she had to cook a lot and was good at it. I remember, as a kid, she would be taking courses on how to learn to pipe icing onto pasties. We spent a lot of time baking together,” Mark says

Mark originally grew up in New York but has lived in Connecticut for over 30 years and calls Madison home now. When not at work, he can be found spending time with his family, where he notes he spent a lot of time coaching various youth sports. He also enjoys traveling and, of course, cooking and baking.

“What I love about Westbrook is that it's very community-oriented; you can really get to know people locally. Especially in the summer, it’s a very vibrant community,” Mark says.