The self-avowed 'powdered sugar queens of Cartersville' offer locals a sweet taste of Louisiana

Nola's Bakery brings bite of the Big Easy to Bartow

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To the surprise of many customers, neither of the owners of Nola's Bakery at 53 Stonewall Street in Cartersville are named Nola. 

"Some people don't know that Nola stands for New Orleans, Louisiana," said Jennifer Jarreau. "I've had people come in and ask 'are you Nola?' It's become a big joke."

Co-owner Katie Murray takes the gag even further. Her response when customers ask if her bakery's nonexistent "owner" is around? "No, we've got her tied up in the back."

Murray, 45, and Jarreau, 53, were friends long before they became business partners. Both women are Louisiana transplants; Murray, who hails from the Big Easy, arrived in the area in 1997 while Jarreau moved from Baton Rouge to Georgia in 2008. "I was just sick of the hurricanes," Jarreau said.

Before opening up Nola's Bakery about 17 months ago, Murray worked in real estate and mortgages, while Jarreau worked as a production coordinator and an accountant.

In June 2016 they first started bandying about ideas for the business. By the time September rolled around, they had already begun construction on what would eventually become their bakery.

"It was just spur of the moment, let's figure out what we need to do and we did it," Murray said. "We're those kinds of girls."

For Jarreau, the catalyst for opening her own business was a rather simple one. "I was tired of having a boss, so I was like 'let's open up a business together!'"

Impressed by Murray's cake-making skills (at that time, she was selling special-order desserts through Facebook), Jarreau figured opening a bakery was a natural fit.

And staying true to their Louisiana roots, they decided to emphasize their shared Cajun heritages by offering up authentic New Orleans treats and desserts. 

"We try to keep everything as close to New Orleans traditions as we can," Murray said. "I think it's the flair — the Italian and the French mixed."

As for Nola's most popular items, Murray said the brownies, cinnamon rolls, mini-pies and brightly colored French macarons all "sell like crazy." But it's the deep-fried beignets and pralines ("we pronounce them 'praw-leans,'" Jarreau said) they consider the bakery's signature items. 

"My husband calls us the 'snowflake makers,'" Murray said, "because there's not a single beignet that's shaped the same or the same size."

The beignets are also one of the reasons why Nola's has to purchase certain ingredients in bulk. 

"We are like the powdered sugar queens of Cartersville," Murray said. "We can do an average of 200 to 250 pounds of sugar a week."

The restaurant also serves a daily, rotating lunch menu, consisting of such New Orleans-style favorites as jambalaya, roast beef po' boys and muffulettas ("big Italian sandwiches," Murray described them.) They also serve up chicken salad once a week, accompanied by croissants and chips.

Their big moneymaker, however, are the cakes, be they the traditional green, gold and purple king cakes or special custom orders, of which Murray said she usually makes about 14-18 a week.

Cakes with unicorn and mermaid designs seem quite popular in the local community. They can also make custom-designed cookie cakes replicating real photographs and company logos in edible form.

Their special-made customer requests, Murray said, run the gamut from sardonic retirement party messages to black power fists to cakes decorated with bottles of vodka (supplied by the customers themselves, of course.)

And they get plenty of orders for risque bachelor and bachelorette party desserts. 

"We won't turn anyone away for subject matter, and I'm used to doing anything," she said. "Anything anyone challenges me with, I will do it."

That authentic "N'awlins" vibe isn't limited to the menu, though. Jarreau said she strived to bring a genuine Louisianan atmosphere to the shop through its aesthetics and ambiance.

The in-bakery stereo plays jazz music, the pillars of the restaurant are decorated with Mardi Gras beads and masks and there's an entire cabinet filled with fleur-de-lis (i.e., the New Orleans Saints logo) branded apparel. Even the java keeps the Cajun connection, being provided by Baton Rouge-headquartered Community Coffee.

The seating inside and out, Murray said, is meant to evoke the same sensation as sitting on a patio on Bourbon Street. 

"It's the front porch appeal we have here, that everyone is welcome," she said. "You can't have a couple sitting here and a couple sitting there not talking. Everyone gets along here, and it's become one big family."

Jarreau said Nola's averages between 25-30 customers daily. A "short" shift, she said, is 12 hours; On average, she said they spend about 15 hours a day in the bakery.

"It's tiring, but we've got a family here," she said. "We've got our regulars who come in every week and I've gotten attached to all these people now."

As for additional revenue streams, the bakery does sell a variety of shirts, towels and other knickknacks, all adorned with witty musings and sassy sayings. Having already provided large quantities of red beans and rice, bread pudding and pies to other businesses, Murray said her bakery is definitely open to catering assignments. They've hosted a couple of cake-decorating classes, too.

Cartersville almost missed out on the bakery, however. Murray said they initially wanted to open a business in Floyd County.

"We looked in Rome first and then we decided "we live here, let's keep it local,'" she said. "Something just kept calling us to this old house."

Among other community partnerships, Nola's works extensively with Cartersville High School, supplying the Hurricanes with desserts during football season. They've also aided and assisted the annual Duck Derby for Advocates for Children.

When it comes to customer requests, Murray said she's game for practically anything — if a client orders a dessert she doesn't know how to make, no worries. She said she'll gladly learn how to make it just for them. 

Murray also imparted some of her baking knowhow to her business partner. Once a baking novice, Jarreau can now prepare a panoply of desserts, with the cavalcade of cannolis, eclairs and chocolate chip truffle cookies behind the glass case often her own personal handiwork.

Which raises the question — what are the co-owners' personal recommendations?

Murray endorses the creme delights. "It's got marshmallow fluffing cream cheese in it, and you can't go wrong with marshmallow fluffing cream cheese. I mean, seriously."

Meanwhile, Jarreau vouches for the cinnamon rolls. 

"After you heat it, it just kind of melts in your mouth," she said. "It's not just good, it's slap-your-mama good."

More information on Nola's services is online at www.facebook.com/NolasBakeryCartersvilleGeorgia.