Bread Winner: Kiki’s Kitchen finds instant success in baking loaves to sell to stores and at the Clemmons Farmers Market
Published 12:10 am Thursday, June 8, 2023
Keishia Rodriguez didn’t expect to be known as the “Bread Lady” at the Clemmons Farmers Market.
Even though she has been cooking and baking most of her life, Rodriquez hasn’t been doing bread long.
“This is the first four months I’ve been doing this as a business,” said Rodriquez, who runs Kiki’s Kitchen and is one of the first-year vendors at the weekly Saturday morning market on the grounds of the Jerry Long Family YMCA.
In her first two appearances at the market, Rodriquez sold over 100 loaves each time.
Doing this wasn’t part of the plan when she decided to put her bread on social media, but everything changed when an employee at Clemmons Country Store bought a loaf and shared it with Sherrie Billings, the store owner.
“That day, she called me three times saying I need your bread in my store,” Rodriguez said. “So that’s the reason I have a business. I said, ‘I just bake this in my house.’ I started to sell to her, and word got out. So I went into a commercial kitchen in Pfafftown in February, and then some more stores contacted me.”
Now, in addition to Clemmons Country Store, her bread can be found in these locations: Buie’s Market in Winston-Salem, MawMaw’s Market and Junktique General Store in Kernersville, Honeybell’s Old Country Store in Lexington and The Just Plain Country Store in Walnut Cove. More stores are in the process of joining the crowd.
Kiki’s Kitchen also does desserts, grazing tables and more — providing wholesale, retail and catering in the Winston-Salem area.
At the Clemmons Farmers Market, there is typically a steady stream of customers eager to pick up sourdough bread loaves of favorites such as Jalapeño Cheddar (the best seller), Poppy Seed Onion (her personal favorite), Cinnamon Raisin and many more.
Actually, the overall business was started in 2020 when Rodriguez got laid off from her full-time job in the medical field due to COVID. She turned to her passion for “cooking, feeding and loving people” to work for her family, creating Kiki’s Kitchen. That included family dinners, catering, empanadas, Spanish food and baked goods.
However, when she contracted COVID in December of that year, everything was put on hold, including her dream of large-scale catering when she lost her sense of taste and smell.
After being reawakened in a church sermon in January when she was challenged “to get up off your talents and gifts God gave you, and not just me but as a family, which is servitude, feeding and loving, so I’m like, ‘OK, God,’ and I went home because I felt like I had been pushed out of my chair at church. And I put the bread on Facebook. That’s all I did, and here we are.”
While Rodriquez continues to work in clinical research with a primary focus in cardiology and has more than 23 years in the field, this latest endeavor includes Henry, her husband of more than 25 years, and Gabriel, who the couple adopted when he was three. Gabriel is now almost 16. (They have four older children and seven grandchildren.)
“(Gabriel) strives for greatness and has totally fallen in love with this bread business and loving on people with his gifts,” Rodriguez said. “We are three people with a desire to serve and love people with food.”
Rodriguez has been what she calls the primary breadwinner (pun intended) for years since Henry was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer in 2009. Although, as she says, “he and God won the battle,” Henry was left disabled with heart failure and other health issues.
Both Henry and Gabriel do their part to help out with the business. In fact, Rodriguez commented that Gabriel sometimes “gets up at 4 a.m. before school and helps bake bread.”
She broke down the details of an ordinary week to prepare for store deliveries and the farmers market.
“We bulk bake on the weekends,” Rodriguez said. “Saturday night, we make the dough, and Sunday morning before church, roll dough out into the flavors. Sunday night, we bake, and it gets delivered on Monday to the stores. Then on Tuesday night, we make dough, and on Wednesday morning at 4 a.m. before I have to go in to work, we roll out the loaves. Wednesday night, we bake and take him to church. We come back and pack up the cool bread, and then it gets delivered on Thursday. We only deliver twice a week. We have to buy extra time in the kitchen to prepare for (the farmers market), but our bulk is Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, so the bread hits the shelves less than 12 hours out of the oven. It’s God’s story. I’m just here to share it.”
Rodriquez said she would like to do other things, but there aren’t enough hours in a day.
“I want to do some pastries, but the bread keeps us so busy,” she said. “It’s just hard to find the time doing all of this between a 40-hour job and taking care of my family. It’s not about me. But I did hear God tell me I had to do the hard. So I’m here doing the hard.”
The original sourdough bread is made with six ingredients — distilled water, potatoes, sugar, oil, salt and KA Special Patent Flour.
“Our bread starts with a potato-based starter that naturally ferments wild yeast,” Rodriquez said, adding it is all handmade with no preservatives.
Even without a sense of taste and smell, she can make bread because it’s a “scientific recipe.”
The bread lady, Henry and Gabriel plan to be at the farmers market 10 Saturdays this year.
“We’re moving too fast already,” she said about the hectic schedule. “We’ll be here at least once a month. We’ll see where it takes us. There are blessings in this. It isn’t about the money. God has been so good to us.”
• • • • •
In addition to Kiki’s Kitchen, there are 10 other new vendors in 2023, including Sunny Dayz Plant Nursery.
Gwen Rominger and her husband Brad, who has a background in landscaping, both grew up on farms and have been around plants their entire lives, but they just started their business in Davidson County — off Frye Bridge Road in Arcadia — in 2022.
“We have wanted to do this forever until last year, when we finally said, ‘Let’s just do it. We’re not going to get any younger,'” Rominger said. “(Brad) would do custom cabinets, and he kind of wanted to get out of that. He actually manages the nursery during the week. I work for a law firm, so I’m doing my thing for now, and we’re hoping to grow it.”
They got the scoop about the Clemmons Farmers Market through a previous vendor and have been pleased with the decision to be a part of it.
“We have stayed pretty busy,” Rominger said. “We’re happy to be here.”
Sunny Dayz has “a little bit of everything” at the market, she said, including shrubs and trees, which “usually have the most dramatic impact on landscaping.”
The nursery in Arcadia has a 24 X 48 greenhouse and offers a variety of flowers, including perennials and annuals, trees, shrubs and vegetable plants.
The Clemmons Farmers Market, which is open from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each Saturday and runs through Oct. 7, has grown in popularity since moving to the present location at the Jerry Long Family YMCA in 2020 with 45 accepted vendors this year, including 14 of those being artisan vendors, and a waiting list to join.