Ella is a culinary artist, one of the two pop-up shops included in Project RowHouse Round 43, ‘Small Business/Big Change, Economic Perspectives from Artists and Artrepreneurs’. Ella and her designer friend Anthony Suber transformed one of the Project Rowhouse galleries into the Crumbville Texas General Store. The cash register counter is littered with glass canisters filled with cookie samples. Cold bottles of almond and soy milk sit in an ice-filled galvanized bucket. Packages of edubilicious cookies fill a table; unique cupcakes line the shelves.
Ella’s a jolly baker in luscious purple lipstick. “I don’t have the metabolism to eat cookies.” So she baked treats for her children to take to school instead. Then she started baking for friends’ parties, which led to a mobile business delivering her baked goodness.
The menu is simple. You can buy a pair of softball-sized cookies, most of which are combinations of traditional themes, or giant, complex cupcakes. ‘Netflix and Chill’ includes popcorn and movie candy. the vegan variety is baked with kale popcorn and crystallized ginger. Being a sweet-a-holic, I went for pecan raisin cookies and a ‘Global Monsoon’ cupcake, inspired by a local band with four musicians of different ethnicities: Black, White, Korean, and Creole. “It’s a dark chocolate cookie baked into white cake with caramel frosting and peppermint.” The goodies are five dollars; Ella’s hugs and love are free.
The Project RowHouse gig is Ella’s first opportunity to sell sweets in a fixed space. “It’s been priceless. People come in for the treats and stay for the community.” On Sundays, Ella brings in a DJ for afternoon jazz and cookies. “There’s no Wi-Fi here. Just people being real.
“Once, a woman picked out three packages of cookies. We got to talking and took pictures and she left. She came back an hour later. ‘I forgot to pay for my cookies.’ She gave me the money. How honest is that!”
True, the woman was honest. But purchasing a cookie from Ella is not a transaction; it’s just one element of the relationship this woman creates with every person she encounters.
When I finally forced myself to leave Ella’s sweet space, I pulled out my wallet. “That will be five dollars.” Ella nodded to my package of cookies. “Remember I also had the cupcake.” I handed her a ten. “Oh, I forgot. You ate that so fast.”
Ella is not a great success because of her accounting skills. She is a great success because of her people skills. And her baking skills are mighty fine. No one could a cheat a person who makes something so sweet for our belly while simultaneously nourishing our soul
How will we live tomorrow?