As a toddler, Colin liked to walk around holding a cookie and then share it with his mom.
"I didn't want it — not because it was slobbery, but because it tasted gross," said Gibney, who couldn't find allergen-free cookies to meet her standards. She started tinkering in the kitchen with gluten-free recipes, but they depended on butter and eggs. She tried vegan cookbooks, she said, but they relied on wheat. She went back to her mother's recipes and spent weeks tweaking them, keeping notes on a big yellow pad.
Her husband, Paul, also a physician trained in emergency medicine, kept eating them. "These are so much better. We need a business," he told her.
She started researching the food business and learning about food safety. She sourced allergen-free products and in 2007, after giving up her medical practice and establishing the dedicated bakery in Norfolk, she tested all incoming products as well as outgoing. "It's all about doing everything we can," she said.
The Food and Drug Administration has established a gluten-free certification program that will take effect this August. "We go way beyond that," said Gibney, who uses a blend of six flours — gluten-free oat, garbanzo, potato starch, tapioca, sorghum and fava — that are a nutritional match to whole-wheat flour.
Despite starting her business just as the economy was tanking, Gibney has experienced phenomenal growth, doubling her gross revenue annually — in 2013 it was $8 million — and expanding from a 2,500 square foot building to 21,000 square feet with off-site administrative offices. She now has 60 year-round employees and 100 employees during the peak season from September through December.
Lucy's can produce 375,000 cookies a day. Now starting to turn a profit, she estimates that it's nearing the end of the second phase of a three-phase expansion. "The next huge leap is to a tunnel oven. We're the biggest producer of this type of product. It's a huge investment and responsibility," she said.
Meanwhile, the severity of his allergies has kept Colin out of clinical trials for new desensitization protocols, she said. "We're hoping that by the time he goes to college there'll be some therapy to put him in a safer range."
• Thirteen flavors of cookies which are gluten-free, non-GMO verified, vegan, egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free.
• Available at BJs, Farm Fresh, Food Lion, Giant, Safeway, Target, Whole Foods. go to http://www.drlucys.com and plug in a ZIP code to find a nearby location.
For videos about Lucy's and about childhood allergies, go to dailypress.com