Let Them Eat Pie 

From cutting hair to cutting pies, the rise of Grandma's Desserts.

Ivory Winfield was a beautician for 31 years — a beautician famous for her tasty sweet-potato pie. Everyone was always asking her to bake them pies and cakes. So three years ago, she sold her house and used half of the money to convert her beauty salon in Orange Mound into Grandma's Desserts, Etc.

"I knew I knew more about cooking than I did about doing hair," Winfield says.

Grandma's is pick-up and delivery only. The sweet-potato pie is Grandma's number-one item, selling more than 100 at Thanksgiving. Other pies on the menu — ranging in price from $11 to $35 — include pecan, honey walnut, chess, and turtle cheesecake. Cupcakes are $12 a dozen (try the Italian cream), and among the options for cakes ($22 to $35) are red velvet, German chocolate, and caramel.

The "Etc." is an important part of Grandma's. Winfield offers jalapeno cornbread, lasagna, dressing, and other non-dessert items, selling from $5 to $40.

Winfield opened Grandma's for her family.

"She wanted to leave a legacy for her grandkids," says Elnora Johnson, one of Winfield's five children. Elnora, along with her three sisters, splits her time between baking and doing hair at the family-owned Chaparral Salon on Winchester. Elnora laughs and says, "We were all doing hair, and then we just got thrown into Grandma's Desserts."

click to enlarge BY JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Winfield's 12 grandkids, ranging in age from 5 to 41, also help out. "Some are in college and some have other jobs, but they all work here at one time or another," Winfield says. The older kids mastered the recipes while growing up, and the others are learning. Those who don't cook help out in other ways. Winfield's 5-year-old granddaughter often helps by sweeping the floor. "She wears a cap just like the rest of us," Winfield says proudly.

Ryan Johnson, Elnora's 18-year-old son, had been taking phone orders and washing dishes for the past three years when he was recently promoted. "I made my first sweet-potato pie about two weeks ago," he boasts. Ryan explains that one day there were no dishes to do so he offered to cut the pies. (His grandma has a special way of cutting them.) Winfield was impressed. Since then, she's let him try a few of her easier recipes.

"I don't cook fancy," Winfield says. "I cook regular, old-fashioned food just like my mama did 50 years ago." All of the recipes used at Grandma's Desserts are Winfield's or her mother's.

Elnora credits the bakery's success to word-of-mouth and their booth at the Memphis Farmers Market downtown, where they sell a variety of cakes and pies by the slice, brownies, cookies, and an assortment of other delights. "We did great," Elnora says. "It's really helped business."

Winfield says she feels confident that her family could carry on without her. But she's not going anywhere just yet. "She's very active," says Elnora. "She does more than I do."

Winfield still does hair at least one day a week and also sits with elderly people at night. But her favorite thing to do is to cook. Being surrounded by family makes it even more enjoyable. "When we're all cooking, I tell everyone to turn off their cell phones and let the [business] phone ring," she says.

Don't worry, though: Winfield says they always check their messages.

Grandma's Desserts, Etc.

3108 Park (458-2197 or 292-7990)


click to enlarge "I don't cook fancy. I cook regular." says Ivory Winfield. - BY JUSTIN FOX BURKS

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