Nikki Wright says if she was living in a perfect world, she’d have her mom working beside her. But even though she’s creating a business in Canton while her mom still lives in the Greensboro area, she keeps her close to her heart while she mixes ingredients for her pies and other mouth-watering creations for Mrs. B’s Homestyle Eatery. “My business is named after my mom, Brenda,” she says. “She grew up on a farm with 15 brothers and sisters. I’ve always enjoyed cooking. She’s the person I got that from.” (go HERE to return to the Sweet & Savory main page)
Her path before launching her own business included serving six and a half years in the Army, followed by earning an associates degree in culinary technology at Alamance Community College and a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.
She recalls how, having recently gotten married, discovering Asheville during a getaway. “I absolutely fell in love with the place. We went to the drum circle. I felt like Asheville just drew me in. The mountains, the food, the weirdness.”
The couple moved to Asheville in 2010, but their careers pulled them to Colorado in 2012. While there, Nikki worked for the National Park Service and for a couple of universities, including the University of Denver.
“I started my business there and sold one season at farmer’s markets,” she says.
They returned to Western North Carolina in July 2016 and she revamped her food business. Her husband commutes to his job in North Dakota as a Health and Safety Inspector. He works three weeks and then is home for two weeks. She admits she didn’t know how she would handle the distance at first, but she’s learned to hone in on cooking and expanding her business while he’s gone. “I honestly have to get used to him being back home,” she says with a laugh. “It’s good, though.”
Nikki began selling at the East Asheville Tailgate Market and Waynesville Tailgate Market in the summer of 2017.
“One of the definite blessings I’ve had is working the Small Business Administration in Haywood County and the Western Women’s Business Center, located at A-B Tech off Sardis Road. They are truly amazing resources and have connected me with different training and workshops.”
She’s currently a one-woman show, doing all her own baking at a commercial kitchen off Sweeten Creek Road in Asheville and then taking her delicacies to markets to sell them. Along with the markets, she sells about 40 pies a week at Duckett’s produce in Clyde and Canton. Duckett’s advised her to concentrate on local, Appalachian foods, and introduced her to the idea of making candy roaster pies.
“Honestly, I was like, I don’t even know what candy roaster tastes like,” she says. “Then I tasted it and thought, ‘Candy roaster, where have you been all my life?’ It’s delicious.”
Other pie varieties she makes includes coconut (her mom’s recipe), pecan, sweet potato, and a Japanese fruit pie. She sells 9-inch pies for $15 and mini pies for $4. She also has a catering side to her business and prepares party trays and family meals. She offers a take-and-bake veggie lasagna for $8. She cuts local vegetables very thin using a mandoline, and then roasts them. “I am actually thinking of making a winter vegetable lasagna and using local vegetables,” she says. “I want to expand my menu.”
An ultimate dream for the future would be owning a food truck. She’s taking steps to get there and finding that she’s being pushed a bit out of her comfort zone and learning to overcome her shyness to talk about and promote her culinary talents. “I was drawn to farmer’s markets by the energy of the people. We share something in a way. Mom grew up on a farm. I never farmed, but I think it’s in me. I’d love to live on two or three acres with cows and pigs and chickens.” She adds that it’s not always easy being an African-American woman selling at area markets. “There aren’t too many minorities there, but it’s right for me. It’s where I belong. I’ve had people say, ‘Oh wow, there’s a minority here?’ If you look past my skin color, I’m just like the other vendors.”
Ultimately, says Nikki, “I take a lot of pride in the business because it’s named after my mom. I try to provide quality food. Families are busy. Moms and dads don’t have time to cook a full meal. They want to be healthier. That’s what I’m here for—to help solve those problems.”
The full article continues below. Click to open in fullscreen…