By Amy Holditch
Photos by Alisha Crossley
For years, Katie Cornutt had been baking the gooey cinnamon rolls with her children, using her Tennessean grandmother’s recipe and generously sharing them with her lucky Homewood neighbors. One day, someone suggested she sell them, and it was at that point that rolls.homewood was born. But it wasn’t until her third child came along that her cinnamon rolls began to blossom into a career. Her daughter, Lyla, was born with a birth defect that left her immunocompromised and thus unable to attend daycare, so Katie, who had been working as a Birmingham realtor for years, had few options professionally.
“rolls. saved me. It really did. It made me get up out of bed every morning,” the newly single mother of three says. “I knew Lyla would not be able to attend daycare because of her condition. I knew that I had to do something that would allow me to stay at home and be with her.” Katie says that she never dreamed she would be a baker, but it definitely came easy to her and that she enjoyed doing. “rolls. started out being a true outlet for my sanity,” she says. “I never dreamed it would be this successful.”
For her rolls, Katie focuses on the purest of ingredients and likes to include her family in the process of creating the preserves. “All of the preserves are homemade and have no preservatives at all,” she says. “Totally organic. Amy Lee, who is our CFO and brains behind the madness, and her husband own Lee Farms, so the other day, we all just went out to the farm and picked the blueberries that will go in my preserves. Same with the strawberries,”, which were also picked locally at Jerry Marsh farms.
Her peach rolls are made from hand-picked Chilton County peaches that are turned into the sweetest peach preserves. “I like that I can give back to my community by supporting local businesses and spend time with my family while doing it. This business makes all of those things possible,” she says. “It’s really cool. These places come to us, asking to sell our products.” Today, you can find her rolls frozen in Homewood, Mountain Brook, Hoover, Trussville and Auburn, and her stepmother runs a sister store, rolls.tuscaloosa. “I gave her the recipe and she does her own thing with them,” Katie says.
In addition, rolls.homewood is showing up at pop-ups and markets in and around the Over the Mountain area and will be heading to Mt Laurel soon. “Much of our expansion and success has solely been led by word of mouth, which makes us feel great,” Katie says. “I am also excited to now be included in Till, a locally sourced farm-to-door farmer’s market where you can purchase local goods online and have them delivered.” Katie herself also hosts pop-ups at local markets and stores, where she is on site, selling both her frozen and baked pans of rolls. But, you better get there early. Katie typically sells out within the hour.
In fact, word on the street is that you should plan at least a month ahead if you want to have fresh rolls for a special event. Even in the grips of COVID-19, rolls. continues to thrive. “Deliveries have actually picked up a bit,” she says. Customers love being able to buy her frozen rolls for later and often stock up, as stores sell out quickly. “They are so good,” says Marie Evans of Forest Park. “Excellent!” Lisa Thompson of Huntsville agrees. “I always pick up some when I am in Birmingham. My family loves them!”
When asked how she balances three children and a booming business to boot, Katie says, “Exercise, chocolate and wine!” But bringing on the right team members has been key too.
In keeping with her initial inspiration for the business, rolls. Donates to Children’s of Alabama and The Bell Center for Early Prevention, both of which have been instrumental to Lyla’s ongoing care.
And The Bell Center is where she first met Lucy Walker too, who worked there as a receptionist at the same time Lyla attended classes. Lucy and Katie bonded quickly, and Katie says she knew Lucy could step up to the plate and work hard. Now full-time with rolls., she handles all of the company’s retail placement. “Katie pushes me forward in the very best ways,” Lucy says. “What you see it what you get with her. It’s hard work and sometimes we work all day, baking and producing. But, we laugh. A lot. And, sometimes we cry, too.” Lucy is not at all surprised by the growth of rolls. “I expect that from Katie,” she says.
Success, however, rarely comes without intensity. Although Katie’s commercial kitchen is located in Hoover, you can immediately tell that the heart and soul of her business is in her Homewood home. Her many freezers are full of fresh, frozen berries waiting to be made into delicious preserves, as well as upcoming orders and pending deliveries. One time they baked for 14 hours straight. “We did 270 pans for a local church and finished at 3 a.m.,” Lucy recalls. “It was a lot.” “But, we did it! We got it out!” Katie was quick to add.
Katie, who is a bit more laissez-faire than her worker bee associate, wants to expand creatively as well. “I would love to branch out into weddings and high-end catering. Bridal showers, too,” she says. No matter how much it grows, though, she still likes to deliver the pans herself. “I like seeing their faces light up and it makes it feel so much more personal,” she says.
Where to Buy rolls.
Meals by Misty
Coming soon to The Village Drug Company
Mainstreet Drugs and Gifts
Visit @rolls.tuscaloosa on Instagram for info on where to buy fresh rolls locally.