Nannie Mae’s Cafe will open soon in downtown Asheboro

Nannie Mae’s Cafe will open soon in downtown Asheboro

In a home kitchen in New Bern, North Carolina, more than 30 years ago, the culinary Gods were starting their work with Katherine Stroud

Barely able to see the top of the stove, Stroud stood beside her grandma Nannie Mae Hardy, and watched her season green beans with bacon grease saved from that morning’s breakfast. She helped mix the eggs, flour and sugar for whatever cake or pie Nannie Mae was creating, and she was always making some kind of sweet.

Those lessons taught with love and patience sparked a passion for cooking and baking in Stroud that lead to her career as a bakery owner and chef at eastern North Carolina establishments. Those same skills and desire to start over with husband Jason Stroud brought her to Asheboro in 2021, where the couple is about to open Nannie Mae’s Cafe at 108 Sunset Ave. in downtown. They married in April 2020.

“My grandmother lived with us, and I was one of 10 children, a his, hers and ours situation where I was the only ‘ours’,” she said. “She was home when my parents were at work. I was tall for my age so I could stand at the stove. It started with scrambled eggs and grits. Those were the first things she taught me how to make.”

Nannie Mae also possessed an incredible sweet tooth that had her in the kitchen creating desserts all the time. The kitchen was where she was most comfortable and what she did in it is how she expressed love. That is a genetic trait Hardy passed down to her granddaughter.

“She loved taking care of people,” said Stroud, “and so do I. I want this place to be a comfortable home for customers.”

Her dad, although not blood kin to grandma Nannie Mae, also believed preparing food was an expression of care and love. He came to the art of cooking late after he had to retire from his job because of a heart condition. Stroud said he spent the retirement years working for free, helping out at the family’s church and community. One day he told their minister at Faith United Methodist Church in New Bern that the church should provide a fellowship meal for the families so they could come to Wednesday night service relaxed and knowing their children had eaten a good meal.

“The minister said, ‘Great. Do that. Run with it.’,” recalled Stroud. “My dad was like, ‘Wait, I don’t know how to cook.'”

He opened every cookbook he could find, Stroud recalled and relied on Nannie Mae for tips. He made the meals and Nannie Mae baked the desserts for every church fellowship meal from then on.

“So I really grew up seeing how it was important to be a part of your community and do things for people,” she said. “I want to feed people’s body and soul.”

Stroud first worked in a bakery after graduating high school in New Bern. When the owner retired, she took over ownership and ran it for three years. Later she became the executive chef at Carolina Colours Golf Club. She ran the cafe and created special dinners for club members for 12 years.

Although she loved the opportunity, she longed to own her own restaurant or bakery again. Jason Stroud, a master technician mechanic, knew this when they met, and decided to help her achieve this goal.

They began looking all over the South for a location, visiting various places in North Carolina and Georgia. In April of this year, they came to Asheboro for a weekend trip on a whim.

“We were walking through downtown and it just felt like we had come home,” she said. “It was so comfortable here. I saw the “For Lease” sign on this building. I just loved this building and its history.”

They did some research on the location and discovered Asheboro was in the throws of a downtown revitalization. A few weeks later, they signed the agreement to lease 108 Sunset Ave. and moved to Asheboro in July. Since then, Jason Stroud has been installing floors, building counters and painting the first floor of the three-story building.

They are closing in on getting all their kitchen equipment delivered and installed so they can open in late October or early November. Jason Stroud will handle the front end of the house, making a variety of coffee drinks and tea. She will create baked goods in the kitchen. The tea will be from the Carriage House Tea Room in Asheboro. They are working with Broad River Roaster in Shelby to make their own blends of coffees.

Sometime in early 2022, they plan to expand the menu to include soups, sandwiches, quiche and salads. Also, there are plans to open the second floor of the cafe for more seating and as a place to have live music performances and a living library.

Stroud said they want to open the business in phases so they can perfect the coffees, teas and bakery end before adding to the menu. Her philosophy is food should be good and served the way a customer wants it.

“Food is meant to be enjoyed,” she said. I don’t know why some chefs get upset if a person wants to eat ketchup on a steak. Let them have it the way they want it. Food is meant to be nourishment for the body. When done right, it can bring back memories of a grandma’s kitchen and what she made, or a favorite aunt.”

Follow Nannie Mae’s Cafe & Bakery on Facebook to keep up with announcements about the opening date.

– Jill Doss-Raines is The Dispatch trending topics and personality profiles senior reporter and is always looking for tips about businesses and entertainment events, secret and new menu items, and interesting people in Davidson County. Contact me at jill.doss-raines@the-dispatch.com and subscribe to us at the-dispatch.com.


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