BOCA RATON — When Naomi and Todd Cohn and their three children fled Florida to avoid Hurricane Matthew in 2016, they landed in Atlanta.
Cohn found herself unexpectedly eager to return to Boca Raton after noshing on warm, sticky — and guilt-free —cinnamon buns at Cinnaholic. The buns were vegan, and therefore kosher, as the Cohns adhere to eating guidelines of their Jewish faith.
“Naomi immediately said, ‘Boca Raton needs one of these bakeries,’ ” Todd Cohn said. A year-and-a-half later, the Cohns opened a franchise of Cinnaholic on Northwest 20th Street, near Florida Atlantic University.
The bakery, featured on ABC’s hit reality TV show “Shark Tank,” has 18 locations, but the Boca Raton location is the first in Florida.
The customizable cinnamon bun, cookie and brownie offerings are all vegan-friendly, nut-free and kosher — fitting right in Boca’s health-conscious, populous and large Jewish community.
“I hate saying, ‘Oh, we can’t make that,’ to fit into people’s eating restrictions. I never have to say that here,” said Naomi Cohn, a mother of three and part-time health coach.
The bakery is tucked in a plaza on Northwest 20th Street near Dixie Highway, and sits next to an organic coffee shop and gym. During Cinnaholic’s grand opening in February, a line formed outside the door of the bakery with patrons who traveled miles from Miami and beyond, the Cohns said.
The Boca Raton vegan buns attracted a large cross-section of the community: college students from nearby FAU, Lynn University and Palm Beach State College; Orthodox Jewish families; and vegans who told the couple they hadn’t eaten cinnamon buns in who-knows-how-long.
Cinnaholic’s fresh baked buns, made from scratch in-house throughout the day, come in a wide array of flavors, with 30 frostings and dozens of toppings. Think Cinnabon, but dairy-, lactose-, egg- and cholesterol-free, the bakery says.
“We make sure you’re getting something as though you’re baking it fresh in your own homes — only better,” Naomi Cohn said.
It helps that the bakery had an appearance on “Shark Tank,” where investors lauded the flavor. “Shark Tank’s” Robert Herjavec offered the founders, Florian and Shannon Radke, a $200,000 investment. The Radkes eventually turned down the investment, citing differences in visions, and opened franchises throughout the country, according to media reports.
After tasting the baked goods in Atlanta, the Cohns said they couldn’t turn down the opportunity to share the tasty flavors with South Florida.
“We never realized the impact on a community that desperately wanted a unique, customizable product like this,” Naomi Cohn said.
And baking was already in Naomi Cohn’s blood.
Old photos of a European bakery line a clear case near the register at Cinnaholic. Naomi Cohn says her grandfather opened the first kosher bakery, Sholmas Bakery, in Vienna, Austria in the early 1900s.
The bakery was seized by the Nazis during World War II, she said. Her family fled and landed in New York, where they opened two more kosher bakeries in Brooklyn. One bakery, Weiss Kosher Bakery in the Williamsburg neighborhood, still is open and owned by Cohn’s family.
“I knew I couldn’t open a bakery from scratch necessarily, so I went the franchise route,” she said. “I blended the old and the new.”
Naomi Cohn’s nephew, Meir Anton, manages the shop.
The Cohn couple’s 11-year-old daughter, Tamar, often runs the register. Their 15-year-old daughter Leora works there too. And their 17-year-old son Markus snapped photos of the products that now hang in their bakery as well as other franchises.
The kids invested their meager cash savings into the shop, and co-own the franchise.
“We just see the value in a family business,” Naomi Cohn said.
Cinnaholic also caters and delivers to businesses and parties. And to draw the college crowd, toppings are free for students.
They often offer specials through the week.
“We just want this to be a comfortable place where people can drop in, work and enjoy the product,” Naomi Cohn said.