WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 9, 2014) – For Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) senior Megan DeLisle and her family, going gluten free isn’t a trend, it’s a way of life.
When she realized she could meet a career goal and help people at the same time, she jumped at the chance. DeLisle is the owner of Gluten Free on 5th, a carry-out restaurant in Youngwood, Pa. that specializes in gluten-free entrees and desserts.
“My father has Celiac’s disease, so over the course of many years we’ve gotten used to cooking and baking gluten free,” DeLisle said. “Some of the standard [food] options out there for people with Celiac’s aren’t so tasty, so we’ve always created our own recipes.”
The restaurant is open Monday and Wednesday evenings, and serves up fresh, gluten-free cakes and cookies, chicken and dumplings, baked ziti, pork tenderloin and other goodies, as well as frozen gluten-free meals, all for carry-out.
Owning a business has always been in the back of DeLisle’s mind, but she imagined she would own a law firm – she came to W&J with every intention of one day becoming a lawyer. That dream isn’t totally out of the picture, she said, but a chance encounter with another entrepreneur changed her career path.
DeLisle, a business administration major and entrepreneurial studies minor, is part of the Hardy Scholars program. The program was developed by Joe Hardy, the founder and CEO of 84 Lumber and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, to support outstanding entrepreneurial studies students at W&J. While giving a tour of his resort to a group of Hardy Scholars, Hardy explained that his nearby quick-serve restaurant, Joe Dogg’s, needed something special to help boost business.
“The wheels in my head started turning,” DeLisle said. “I didn’t think he’d really take advice from a sophomore in college, but then he said he wanted to run with it.” She drafted a business plan for Joe Dogg’s, and partnered with Hardy to revamp the restaurant, which is now thriving.
That’s when DeLisle realized a passion for opening a restaurant of her own. Gluten Free on 5th opened on Sept. 21, 2014, in a commercially-zoned residence her parents owned on at 111 S. 5th St. in Youngwood, Pa. DeLisle flipped the building into a restaurant, and handles all business operations herself, including all of the cooking and marketing.
“This is going to be my primary focus now,” she said. “I’m leaving law school on the back burner for now and going to try to run the restaurant full time after graduation.”
DeLisle said balancing a business with finishing school is challenging, and she’s looking forward to extending the restaurant’s hours and offerings after graduation.
Gluten Free on 5th became a vendor with Parkhurst Dining in January 2015, and DeLisle said she also hopes to contract with local hospitals and other food service providers in the future to supply gluten-free meals and treats to their customers, too.
“This is just the beginning,” DeLisle said. “I’m hoping in future to move to new facility and be able to hire a staff. This is a niche market that’s on the rise, but more people have Celiac’s disease than you think and here we provide them with foods and baked good that they normally couldn’t have. I think I’m in at the right time.”
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.
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