RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J. — Ridgefield Park baker Erika Oldham wants to grow her business in New Jersey, but she says a ban on the sale of home-baked goods in the state is making that very difficult.
"In New Jersey I can't bake stuff in my own kitchen to sell because there are no cottage food laws," said Oldham, who owns the cake-design company " Chic Sugars ."
New Jersey and Wisconsin are the only two states in the country that ban the sale of home-baked goods. Those opposed to a cottage food law cite public health concerns and unfair competition to established businesses, the Associated Press reports .
The Teaneck native started "Chic Sugars" while living in Queens in 2011. She moved to Ridgefield Park last July and wants to bring her business with her. Because of New Jersey's ban, that means renting out a commercial kitchen -- and taking on a lot more risk.
"To rent a commercial kitchen in New Jersey is like $1,600 a month," she said. "For somebody trying to start a business that is a huge overhead.
"If I could run my business from home I could save money and build my client base and then open up a storefront."
A cottage food law has passed New Jersey's General Assembly twice, but Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Sen. Joe Vitale has refused to bring up the measure for a vote., the Associated Press reports.
Oldham says Vitale has "hijacked" the process and refutes the idea that home-baked goods pose a health risk and endanger small businesses.
"There is plenty of space in the market for custom baked goods," Oldham said. "If you are a mom-and-pop-shop, I bet you are a lot more concerned about places like Walmart that are mass producing cookies and cakes."
As for the health risk, Oldham says a cottage food law could require home bakers to complete a food safety course.
For now, Oldham says she will seek a commercial kitchen and is also considering partnering with a friend to open a storefront. Meanwhile, she holds out hope that Vitale will reconsider his stance on a cottage food law.
"If this was a legitimate concern it wouldn’t have passed twice," Oldham said. "There are 48 other states that have a working model, so we know it can be done."