Sweet Tea and Biscuits: From factory layoff to dream job, Beverly Blaylock dishes up meals to please

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Beverly Blaylock worked for 26 years in the furniture industry and while she was happy with her job, she knew she belonged somewhere else.
When the layoffs came, she jumped at the chance to follow her dream: cooking for others.
“For years, I’d helped friends give receptions,” said Blaylock, 55. “I have enough silver and pewter and pottery to do 40 receptions at one time. I’ve been collecting stuff for years. I’ve always known this is what I was meant to do.”
When her job at Lane came to an end, she went to work for The Oaks Country Club in New Albany. And then one day a few months later, she got a call from her good friend Amy McClellan.
“For years, Amy had said, ‘You need to have a catering business and I want to have a gift market,’” Blaylock recalled. “And then one day this spring she called and asked what I would think about taking the cafe at Flowerdale if she leased the building. I said no and hung up. I waited about 10 minutes – I felt like the Lord was patting me on the shoulder – and I called her back and said, ‘You know I might be interested.’”
And Sweet Tea and Biscuits was born.
The cafe, located in the back of Joyful Creations Gift Market in the old Flowerdale Marketplace building on McCullough Boulevard, officially opened its doors Sept. 3.
“That first morning, I prayed all the way up the Trace for customers,” Blaylock said. “I thought we might have 10 customers. At one point, I looked up and they were lined around the building. There were 100 there on the first day.”
And they haven’t let up since.
The cafe features daily specials, sandwiches, soups, salads and sweets – all made by hand from scratch.
“We’ve had people tell us this is the best-tasting food, and I think it’s because we use the best, freshest ingredients we can find,” Blaylock said.
Specials, sandwiches, soups
Blaylock quickly got her sister, Joan Pound Lansdell, on board to help her run the cafe, which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“All my life, I’ve gone to Joan for advice and help,” Blaylock said. “At this point in our lives, we’re not afraid to go out in left field.”
The two women, along with 10 part-time employees, plan each day’s menu, which includes a special. They often take a nod from their 90-year-old mother, Ruth Rye.
“She combs recipe books every week and marks recipes for us to try,” said Lansdell, 65. “She has wonderful ideas. She knows how to make the plate pretty, how to balance food on a plate. She taught us early how to eat with our eyes, even though she never said it.”
Blaylock said, in general, the special on Tuesday is going to be a chicken dish, Wednesday is going to be a beef dish, Thursday is chicken and dressing, Friday is shrimp and grits, and Saturday is soup and quiche. The specials are $6.99 every day but Friday, which is $7.99.
They also serve a variety of sandwiches, including a fried green BLT; chicken salad; pimiento cheese; fresh baked ham; fresh baked turkey breast; and a club. Popular soups are tomato basil; black-eyed pea with ham; loaded potato; and chicken gumbo. Quiche favorites are Quiche Lorraine; chicken, cheddar and pecan; mushroom and sausage; and roasted red pepper and tomato.
And every plate, whether it’s a sandwich, a slice of quiche or the daily special, is served with a biscuit, a cheddar-chive muffin, a celery stick stuffed with pimiento cheese, some grapes and an orange wedge.
“People are crazy about homemade biscuits,” Blaylock said. “We recently had a cooking class where we taught people how to make them and they are chomping at the bit for us to have another one.”
Those biscuits are one of the reason’s for the cafe’s name.
“My son-in-law suggested it,” Blaylock said. “He’s been in our family for 12 years. I was thinking aloud one day and saying, ‘If I ever had a business, what would I call it?’ and he said, ‘Sweet Tea and Biscuits.’ When I asked him why, he said, ‘Because everybody wants your biscuits, and your sweet tea is why I married your daughter.’”
Living her dream
Business has continued to boom for the ladies at the cafe. Most days, they average 100 customers, and one day last week, they came close to serving 200 customers.
They’re even thinking about adding a line of gourmet coffees to sell with their homemade desserts like red velvet cake, coconut pie, caramel pie, caramel cake and coconut cake.
“People are starting to want to come in the afternoon for coffee and dessert,” said Carylon Sheals, who helps in the kitchen. “We’re here to please.”
The cafe will be closed Thursday for Thanksgiving, but it’ll open at 8 the next morning for a Black Friday special, which will feature tenderloin and biscuits, ham and biscuits, cheese grits, fruit, muffins and coffee. At 11, they’ll switch over to lunch.
Blaylock anticipates a full house all day long.
“I can’t believe I’m having so much fun at this time in my life,” she said. “My husband made this possible because he knew this was what I wanted. I’m living my dream. How lucky am I at 55 to be doing this? I have to pinch myself.”
ginna.parsons@journalinc.com

Fast Facts
WHAT: Sweet Tea and Biscuits

WHERE: McCullough Boulevard in the old Flowerdale Marketplace cafe.

WHEN: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

CALL: (662) 322-7322.

Recipes
WHITE LILY BISCUITS

2 cups White Lily self-rising flour

1⁄4 cup shortening

2⁄3 to 3⁄4 cup buttermilk

Combine all ingredients. Roll dough out and cut out biscuits. Bake at
500 degrees for 10 minutes.

PARSLEY BISCUITS WITH HAM AND HONEY MUSTARD
2 cups White Lily self-rising flour

1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoon shortening

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

2⁄3 to 3⁄4 cup buttermilk

1⁄2 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1⁄4 teaspoon allspice

1⁄2 pound thinly sliced ham

Combine flour and Parmesan cheese;add shortening and butter, then parsley and buttermilk. Roll out dough, cut into biscuits and bake at 500 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes.

Combine mayonnaise, mustard, honey, orange zest and allspice. Stuff biscuits with ham and top with honey mustard.