Mar 15, 2024 2:11 AM

A venture built on faith

Posted Mar 15, 2024 2:11 AM
<b>Kayla and Taylor Marino are the owners of Taste and Seek, a gluten-free bakery and Christian boutique opening this summer in downtown Burlington. Photo/Keith Turrill</b>
Kayla and Taylor Marino are the owners of Taste and Seek, a gluten-free bakery and Christian boutique opening this summer in downtown Burlington. Photo/Keith Turrill

By William Smith

Kayla and Taylor Marino are twins in more ways than just appearance.

In many ways, they’re the same person — from their dress habits to their tastes in pretty much everything.

By that logic, it’s hard to determine who first came up with the idea of opening Taste and Seek, a gluten-free bakery and Christian boutique store on Jefferson Street, set to open this summer. 

But it was Kayla’s newfound love of baking that led them there. For her, baking became a way to conquer a disease she didn’t even know she had.

“In high school, Kayla was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease,” Taylor said.

“I was told that I had to avoid gluten and dairy,” Kayla said. “So I was like, ‘What can I eat?’ ”

Turns out that Kayla can eat a lot of the things she savors. She just has to cut out the gluten and dairy. Her family got educated, and Kayla started making her food. Before long, she had developed a passion for baking.

The sisters do everything together, and thanks to their identical genetics, Taylor has the same autoimmune disease. So she went gluten-free and found a similar interest in baking.

“I was a senior when I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I cannot do dairy anymore.’ Now we’re both gluten and dairy-free,” Taylor said.

After graduating from Notre Dame High School, the Marino twins attended Southeastern Community College before transferring to Iowa Wesleyan University. That only lasted a year before the college was shut down.

“Obviously, that was a big shock to us, and we didn’t really know what to expect. But we also knew that the Lord was going to take care of us, and he led us to William Penn,” Taylor said.

The Marino twins had grown accustomed to online classes. They were in high school during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and received a good deal of instruction that way.

“We were actually both studying to be teachers,” Taylor Marino said.

Their faith only grew with their struggles, and they went on a mission trip to Ohio last summer to help youth in the area. 

Part of that was serving food, which they found much more fulfilling than they initially imagined.

Between their love of baking and their willingness to serve other people, the idea of a Christian bakery took root. Then, the Lord confirmed it.

“During prayer, on the same day, the Lord revealed to us about Taste and Seek. And so we prayed more into it, and we’re like, ‘Okay, yes, this is what the Lord’s calling us to,’” Taylor said. “So here we are. We honestly cannot believe it. We are very excited.”

It was their late grandfather, Bob Brueck, who turned their dreams into reality. Brueck, also known as “Mr. Burlington,” had a passion for downtown, and owned several buildings.

Brueck died in January of 2022, but he left them a special gift. A space for the Marino twins to put their bakery at 218 Jefferson St.

“He knew that I had a passion for baking, and right before he passed away, he told me that, one day, you need to open up a bakery,” Kayla said.

In that way, the Marino sisters are fulfilling two visions — Bob Brueck’s, and their own. Kayla said he always talked about wanting a bakery in the heart of the 218 Jefferson St. building, which houses other businesses.

“The loft has a kitchen up above, so that’s where we’ll do all our prepping and the kitchen space,” Taylor said.

There’s still a lot of work to do, and it’s getting done. The inside of the building is currently under renovation. Signage is on its way.

From a business perspective, the Marino twins think they’ve found a good niche for things Burlington doesn’t have. But they won’t restrict themselves to just gluten-free products. There will be something for everybody, including Christian boutiques — another corner of the local market that they will have to themselves.

They only wish their grandfather was still around to see it open.

“Our plans, you know, didn’t go the way we wanted. But now we look back and we’re like, ‘It couldn’t have gotten any better,’” Kayla said.