VOL. 126 | NO. 84 | Friday, April 29, 2011
Memphis Standout Profile
‘Lovin’ From the Oven’ A Success for Gordon
By Andy Meek
Kat Gordon exudes the energy of someone on a perpetual sugar high. She has a playful side that shows up in the brightly colored wigs she’s worn to work.
And she’s about as approachable as you’d expect someone to be who spends her time perfecting the confections that comprise endless pie racks and cupcake trays of what she calls her store’s “lovin’ from the oven.”
Perhaps most remarkable of all, Gordon – the proprietor of Muddy’s Bake Shop in East Memphis – has been serving customers her cupcakes, cookies, pies and other baked goods for three years running.
On April Fools’ Day, the famously do-it-yourself, independent store owner blasted a note to her Facebook followers letting customers know she’d decided to “follow the money,” a la “Jerry Maguire,” and sell out to “a large, international corporation owned by Monsanto.”
Alas, Gordon did no such thing.
Not only did her store recently celebrate its third anniversary, but she’s looking at hiring staff to help absorb the still-strong customer demand.
Gordon tries hard to make the shop a home away from home for the family of employees she’s built, some of whom come to work in the early morning hours, with others not arriving until the early evening.
Gordon said the shop has hosted baby showers for staff members. It’s celebrated two “staff babies” and one grandbaby since the store opened in 2008.
“When I opened, the idea was to do a little neighborhood bake shop. We broke so many ovens our first year. I didn’t know, but you’re supposed to let them rest.”
– Kat Gordon,
Owner, Muddy’s Bake Shop
“When I opened, the idea was to do a little neighborhood bake shop,” she said, before reminiscing about the growing pains along the way.
“We broke so many ovens our first year. I didn’t know, but you’re supposed to let them rest. We were literally baking five days straight, 24 hours a day, and found out, uh, you’re not supposed to do that.”
That’s pretty much how Gordon charted the path she now finds herself on – by marching to the beat of a drum that led her from the University of Memphis, where she graduated with degrees in art history and English, to the world of real estate.
She worked for a time with her mom, who’s a Realtor, all while daydreaming of owning her own store. It was a long simmering idea that can be traced to her childhood love of the Easy Bake Oven, her family’s culinary talents and her grandmother nicknamed Muddy who baked for anyone in need.
Gordon is a self-professed night owl. But where other people might crack open a novel and hope sleep will eventually take hold, Gordon has been known to use those spare early-morning moments to head to the kitchen.
“It was the marketing I couldn’t do in real estate,” Gordon said. “The contracts and stuff, I was fine with. The accounting – all of that, I was fine with. I started spending 20 percent of my time on this side concept and 80 percent on the real estate.”
Slowly, that ratio began to flip-flop.
“Eventually, I was spending way more time planning what cookies I was going to bake for the open houses,” Gordon said.
On the “Frequently Asked Questions” portion of her shop’s website, Gordon answers why she and her team decided to go into the bakery business.
“We love feeling super-productive and going home tired, knowing that we gave our very best,” she wrote. “We like being creative with food and interacting with other people.
“Our goals are simple: make enough money to support a simple lifestyle, enjoy our work, give back to the community, make a product we’re proud of, honor the Lord, and make your day a little brighter.”
Gordon added a “thankful wall” in the bathroom. It’s where customers can write things they’re thankful for.
A counter in the kitchen was something Gordon found on the side of the road and brought into the store. A man saw her and stopped to help, and Gordon still smiles when she recounts learning that the seemingly random stranger knew her mother.
Most of the Muddy’s furniture is either from Gordon’s home, garage sale items or items she otherwise found.
Gordon painted all four of the square tabletops in the shop.
“One is of my two dogs,” she said. “The health department won’t let them come to work with me, so it’s as close as I can get.”