Thistle’s Summit offers gluten-free and inclusive vegan baked goods


Upon entering Thistle’s Summit in downtown Des Moines, guests are instantly greeted by the aromatic scents of a mystical “herbal blend” brewed upstairs.

But that’s only part of what customers can expect from the new bakery.

Former home baker Marti Payseur and her partner – both in business and in life – astrologer Ash Bruxvoort launched Thistle’s Summit, located at 340 SW Fifth St.

The “witch kitchen emporium” part, “metaphysical shop” part offers exclusively gluten-free and vegan desserts and offers astrology appointments led by Bruxtvoort. It’s the first of its kind in the Des Moines metro, according to Payseur, and its theme: “ways to make life more magical.”

With Payseur’s mastery of gluten-free and vegan baking, Bruxvoort said, people often ask, “Are you a magician?”

However, the magic in Payseur and Bruxvoort extends beyond metaphysics.

“Magic is really what you make people feel,” Bruxtvoort said.

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Bruxvoort and Payseur embarked on a quest to build a space grounded in inclusivity, from the wide variety of options available for customers with the strictest dietary requirements, to the welcoming atmosphere created inside.

“We want it to be warm and inviting and welcoming,” Payseur said, “so people feel like they’re in a living room.”

The downstairs seating area is part of Thistle's Summit, a new bakery in downtown Des Moines that also offers astrology appointments.

From a bed and breakfast to a bakery

Thistle’s Summit is the second major business venture of Payseur and Bruxvoort together. In 2019, they opened a bed-and-breakfast of the same name in Mount Vernon with the goal of becoming “Iowa’s weirdest bed-and-breakfast.”

With travel heavily inhibited by the pandemic, the couple turned to creative ways to make ends meet.

“I started cooking in our house,” Payseur said, “just to be able to pay our mortgage.”

Serving nearly 60 families a week, Payseur said she realized there was a high demand for products sensitive to people’s dietary restrictions. At the time, she said Bruxvoort was also struggling with health issues that led her to cut gluten and eggs from her diet.

Sugar Momma cookies sold out Thistle's Summit, a new bakery that opened downtown.  Sugar Momma cookies are colored to represent the Pride flag, according to store owner and baker Marti Payseur.

It was the perfect opportunity for Payseur to hone her craft as a baker and fill an unmet need in the community, she said.

Good bakery deliveries quickly turned into farmers market stalls and porch popups as locals lined up to sample Payseur’s treats, the couple said.

“Everyone wanted some kind of joy in their life that felt like an escape from the monotony,” Payseur said.

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The home-baking business quickly took over the house, with a kitchen constantly in use and sacks of flour piled on the dining room table, Payseur said. The couple soon realized it was time to expand.

Oat Cream Pies are one of Thistle's Summit best-selling gluten-free and vegan treats.

In March 2021, the couple sold the B&B in Mount Vernon and moved back to Des Moines, where they started their life together. In July 2021, the couple were lucky enough to rush to another space to access their dream space downtown, Payseur said, with enough room for a bakery and space for astrology readings.

“Truly magical,” Payseur said.

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“Built by queer people, especially for queer people”

The shop’s name is a combination of its former location on Summit Avenue in Mount Vernon and the owners’ self-proclaimed “muse”, their black lab and Great Pyrenees mix named Thistle.

Marti Payseur (left) and Ash Bruxvoort opened Thistle's Summit, a gay-owned bakery designed to create an inclusive space for members of Des Moines' queer community.

However, for Bruxvoort, the meaning of the word thistle goes beyond the name of his dog.

Growing up on a conventional corn and soybean farm, Bruxvoort said his father always taught him that thistles were a nuisance that could only be eliminated with pesticides.

“Thistles have always been kind of a symbol of strangers,” she said.

“Since we run a queer B&B in an area where people didn’t necessarily think you would be able to do something like that,” she said, “we decided to call it Thistle’s Summit.”

Even though the business has moved from its original location on Summit Avenue and changed form, Bruxvoort and Payseur say they still feel the name is the perfect fit.

Baked goods and produce on display at Thistle's Summit in downtown Des Moines.

“Central to everything we both focus on is creating spaces for people who don’t necessarily fit all the normal traditional boxes to find what they need and connect with each other. to others,” Bruxvoort said.

“This is built by queer people, especially for queer people,” Payseur said. “We want it to feel like it’s a community.”

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Products sold out within hours of opening

Demand for Thistle’s Summit vegan and gluten-free treats is growing across the city, the owners said.

Payseur, who worked as a wholesale baker around Des Moines while the couple set up shop, said customers followed her to her car to try and taste her famous oat cream pies.

When Thistle’s Summit held a July 30 opening, cult fans of the ingredient-aware bakery were eager to discover an easier way to get their favorite gluten-free and vegan treats, Payseur said.

Within four hours, the store had sold out all of its baked goods, Bruxvoort said.

“It’s been wild,” Payseur said.

The store reopened on August 4 and 5. When it closed on August 6 so Bruxvoort and Payseur could travel to the Hinterland Music Festival, they said they received countless messages from people standing outside the store hoping to get a preview. taste of what was inside. .

Gluten-free and vegan desserts are featured at Thistle's Summit, a new bakery that has opened downtown.

The bakery officially opened on August 11 and serves a range of products from classic cream-filled cookies to cakes, cinnamon rolls and cookies.

Surrounded by what Payseur called their “little pocket of small business owners” on SW Fifth Street, Payseur said she hopes the bakery’s reach will only continue to expand and contribute to the development of the town.

“Finding those pockets where there is revitalization and change is a huge opportunity for us as first-time business owners and also for Des Moines to start expanding its frontiers,” Payseur said.

During their grand opening through August 13, customers can expect a wide variety of goodies, gift baskets, and a chance to win a free birth chart reading.

Francesca Block is a breaking news reporter at the Des Moines Register. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @francescablock3.


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