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We’re Open KC: Holidays bring business to bakeries

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-24 08:11:29-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For Marc O’Leary, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a loaf of rolled sweet bread called povitica.

“When we cut our English Walnut povitica up for Christmas and put a little melted pat of butter on it, we all think of [our relatives],” O’Leary said, describing the Croatian tradition.

And for Fabian Brown, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals aren’t complete without light, fluffy, and slightly sweet dinner rolls made from Big Momma’s recipe.

“The turkey, or sometimes the ham for Christmas, is [normally] the centerpiece. Our dinner rolls are the centerpiece,” Brown said, smiling underneath his face mask.

O’Leary runs Strawberry Hill Povitica in Merriam, Kansas. Brown is the owner of Big Momma’s KC, a bakery in Kansas City, Missouri. Bakeries, along with just about every other business, have had ups and downs in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

O’Leary said he started to see business rebound in the summer, but he said business around the holidays is double what he normally sees. His previous record for sales in a day was Black Friday in 2019. He’s broken that record every day from November 1 to December 21 in 2020.

“I think people, by staying home, want a little bit of their home and their family with them,” O’Leary said.

He shipped a record-setting 13,000 povitica across the United States one day last week. He said over the past several weeks, his suppliers have run out of tin pans, bags and boxes, forcing him to find other manufacturers in order to meet demand. Plus he’s hired about 50 more seasonal workers than a typical holiday season.

“There are 20 people just answering phone calls,” he said.

Brown said he is in disbelief at the size of orders he’s receiving. He said some people have ordered 360 dinner rolls at a time, making him wonder if his customers are violating limits on the size of gatherings during the pandemic.

“It’s the pandemic, we’re not supposed to be having this, I don’t know what’s going on,” he said with a laugh.

At one point this year, Brown didn’t pay his own salary in order to keep employees employed and doors open. He said customers kept coming and the boost in holiday roll sales makes him cautiously optimistic about 2021.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “This is our awesome time of the year. Hopefully it’ll just continue into January and February.”

In a year where so much has seemed different, O’Leary and Brown said they're are happy to know they’re providing families with the normalcy of their holiday meal traditions.

Strawberry Hill Povitica’s retail store at 7226 W. Frontage Rd., in Merriam, KS, is open until 2 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Big Momma’s KC at 4707 E. Bannister Rd., Ste. B, in Kansas City, MO, is open on Christmas Eve, but Brown warned he’ll only have a few pans of dinner rolls available for walk-ins. The majority of the rolls go to pre-orders.

We've created a Facebook group, We're Open Kansas City, where members of the community can post businesses serving their community.