I recently sat down for a Q & A with Barry Turner, partner at one of my favorite hometown bakeries here in Statesboro, Ga.–Sugar Magnolia Bakery & Café to learn what inspires him in the kitchen, and what the bakery has in store for 2014.
Why was Statesboro the place you chose to open the bakery?
I am from here, have lived here all of my life, with the exception of some time in Atlanta in school, and didn’t consider any other place! At the time Statesboro did not have a bakery, and the renovation of Gaslight Crossing offered what seemed to be a good location for the business. So, after careful consideration, the bakery was founded.
I’ve noticed you guys bake with a lot of organic ingredients and sell local products. What’s the philosophy behind Sugar Magnolia Bakery and why?
We want to offer good quality, great taste, and whenever possible, options which are as healthy as possible. While we realize that the very nature of many bakery offerings isn’t what one would consider healthy, we want what we offer to be as good as it can be. When feasible, we like to use local products, and we always want to use ingredients of good quality. The local supply can be a challenge, since the volume of ingredients we require often out paces some of the local supplies–however, we still utilize products from local producers when it works for us. Another challenge is having a customer base that is willing to pay extra for ingredients which may cost a bit more. While the idea of choosing organic options, for example, may be attractive in theory, not everyone is really willing to pay extra for food made with ingredients that aren’t mass-produced food service products. It can be a struggle to do what we would like to do, and what we have to do to be profitable. In the end, all the good intentions in the world are for naught if we don’t succeed as a business.
What’s your best-selling bakery item and item on the menu?
We have a number of menu items that seem to be more popular than others–they include our ham & cheese rolls, chicken salad, chewy cake, pizza, fresh mozzarella Panini and our pulled pork hash which we offer at Sunday brunch. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of people whose favorites are one of the other items we offer!
What’s your personal favorite thing to eat at Sugar Magnolia?
I like the ham & cheese roll, the chicken salad sandwich, and the roast turkey sandwich. For something sweet, I love the carrot cake and chewy cake.
Tell me about your new business partner Adam, and what his role is at the bakery.
Adam is a culinary school graduate who has worked in some great places in Atlanta and beyond. He is a Statesboro native, though, and worked with us at Sugar Magnolia previously before coming on as an owner. Adam brings a wealth of knowledge in food service operation, as well as a passion for food and cooking. He is assessing our operation at present, and is helping develop plans for improvement where necessary, and working to expand our menu and service.
I’ve been to an Open Mic Night at Sugar Magnolia before. What kinds of events are on schedule in 2014?
We do have the occasional poetry night at the bakery, and also provide a venue for local musicians. We love local folks who play their own music. Since we don’t have a large space, smaller, acoustic based groups, or individuals, is best. We also have local artwork displayed in our dining area. Artists can schedule a show of their work, usually for about a month, and can even sell their work at the bakery. We love supporting the local art scene, in our own small way.
How are you inspired in the kitchen?
I get great pleasure out of serving something that people like to eat. I want the food that we serve at Sugar Magnolia to be more than just something to fill the stomach, I want it to be an opportunity to build memories with friends, to create an atmosphere of community, and to be something that someone will remember fondly, but in the end, to be something that is just good! Even though I don’t do a lot of the cooking or baking myself, I love trying out new things and getting reactions from people who taste what I’ve cooked. I like making soups, bread puddings, and other comfort foods.
Tell me about your staff.
We have a fantastic group of people working with us at Sugar Magnolia, from our chief baker, Sharena Williams, to our other bakers and cooks, to counter personnel. Everyone here believes in what we do, and they are invested in doing a good job for our customers. While we are in transition presently, with a new ownership structure, we are mindful of keeping the good things that people love, while trying to improve and expand where possible.
Name an ingredient that’s always in your pantry at home.
Now that’s a tough one–we typically always have way more than we need in the pantry and freezer at the house! My wife, Marilyn, and I both like to cook, but typically not together–too much chance for conflicting views on how something should be done! Some basic ingredients that we usually always have, though, which would allow us to whip up a meal for unexpected guests, include pasta, something to make a good pasta sauce, and of course a loaf of some sort of bread from Sugar Magnolia! We usually get something that is leftover at the end of the day, but I really am not kidding when I say we always have a loaf of bakery bread. It is good for grilled or French toast in the morning, for a sandwich at lunch, and as a great accompaniment with that last-minute pasta dinner. Popped into the oven with some cheese, Italian herbs, and a little olive oil, and our French bread or Sourdough is often supper (along with a glass of wine, if you are into that). Our bread keeps in the ‘fridge for a week or more, and is still quite good.
Opened in the fall of 2005, Sugar Magnolia Bakery and Café is owned and operated by Statesboro natives Barry and Marilyn Turner, and Adam Sapp. Specializing in fresh-baked breads and treats, both sweet and savory; including breakfast pastries, cookies and brownies, the bakery is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and my personal favorite– weekend brunch! Sugar Magnolia is located downtown on Savannah Ave. adjacent to Eagle Creek Brewing Company. Be sure to join the nearly 2,000 others that follow them on Facebook at Facebook/SugarMagnoliaBakery for your chance to win a free slice of their scrumptious pizza!
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I’m a Georgia food writer and Statesboro-based TV personality. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s The Taste, I’m the Statesboro Herald Food Columnist, and I co-produce and host Statesboro Cooks, airing on local cable Channel 99. This blog, Some Kinda Good™ is a Southern, coastal food blog highlighting East coast restaurant reviews and Lowcountry-inspired recipes. I hope you’ll stick around, and follow me on Twitter at @SKGFoodBlog or find me on Facebook. If you want, learn more about me, and thanks for visiting!
This article originally appeared in the Statesboro Herald on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014.