Tastemakers 2017: Wendy Miller Pugh & Letha Pugh of Bake Me Happy

KP Green
Wendy Miller Pugh (left) and Letha Pugh

Why They're Tastemakers

Wendy Miller Pugh is the head baker. Letha Pugh crunches the numbers. Together, the couple runs Bake Me Happy, one of only a handful of gluten-free bakeries in Columbus. And the GF business is booming. The bakery's scones, which can be bought frozen and baked at home, are best-sellers. Flavor combos like blueberry, goat cheese and basil or maple cream, bacon and white cheddar sound like something you'd see at a Jeni's scoop shop. And even folks who don't require a gluten-free diet swear by the pies. On the occasional Nostalgic Treat Saturdays? Get ready for two-hour waits for those after-school snacks of your youth. “When you're in the bubble of baking, you think, ‘OK, people might come,'” Wendy says. “But when the line is out the door, you think, ‘OK, maybe we have something here.'”

There's No “Right” Way

“I went to the [Culinary Institute of America in] New York for a gluten-free baking class,” says Wendy, who is gluten-free by necessity. “I realized I like the way I do it better. There's no textbook on it. Everyone does their own flour blend, their own tricky thing.”


Bake Me Happy recently began operating concession stands inside Ohio Stadium and the Schott, offering hot dogs on gluten-free buns, GF beer (brewed with rice or sorghum) and signature treats like Peanut Butter Burners, a slightly spicy peanut butter cookie. Starting this football season, they're also partnering with fellow2017 Tastemaker Dara Schwartz to offer Darista Dips at the 'Shoe. “For people who are gluten-free, they are so happy to see us,” Wendy says. Their baked goods are also sold in student cafés around Ohio State University, in grocery stores, such as The Hills Downtown and Raisin Rack, and in corporate cafeterias.

Sometimes You Just Want a Sno Ball

Last summer, Bake Me Happy partnered with Hot Chicken Takeover for a GF pop-up. Thanks to social media, a line wrapped around the parking lot for two hours. “It was amazing. Joe [DeLoss, Hot Chicken Takeover's owner] extended it another hour because he knew it was important to people,” Wendy recalls. “If you're gluten-free, you never get to eat fried chicken.” Another glorified pleasure: snack cakes like Hostess Twinkies and Little Debbie Zebra Cakes. That's why Bake Me Happy does nostalgic treats such as golden cake Spongies, Oatmeal Creme Clouds and Pop-Tarts with specialty fillings. “When you're told you can't eat it, you want it more,” Wendy says. “Sometimes you just want to go in the gas station and get a Sno Ball.”

No Funny Business

“I love that people can see what we're doing,” Wendy says of the bakery's open-kitchen concept. “You can see how we're handling food. Our No. 1 compliment is, ‘Oh my God, it's so clean in here!' It builds trust.”

Up Next

When the furniture store in their Merion Village building, T.Y. Fine Furniture, closes later this year, Wendy and Letha plan to open a full-service, gluten-free coffee shop in the space.

Wendy Miller Pugh

AGE 40

PREVIOUS GIG Adult education teacher for Columbus City Schools

MUST-HAVE INGREDIENT “Marshmallow fluff. It makes great cake frosting!”

GO-TO GF DRINK Rhinegeist dry-hopped hard cider

GO-TO GF SNACK Kettle chips

FAVORITE LOCAL DINNER SPOT Lávash Café in Clintonville

Letha Pugh

AGE 45

PREVIOUS GIGS Registered nurse, owner of a home health care company

MUST-HAVE INGREDIENT “Garlic. Sometimes I overdo it.”

GO-TO DRINK “Beer and whiskey … together”

GO-TO SNACK “Our Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treat. It's perfect.”