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Cotton Patch blooms in Statesboro
Deli/bakery outgrowth of business that started in Portal
Cotton Patch Web
Ikea Jenkins, left, places her lunch order with Cotton Patch Bakery & Deli Manager Cora Barrs, right, while another customer, Claire Rieves, waits her turn in the background. Jenkins, a cosmetologist who works across the street at Hair Solutions, was in for her third visit in the deli/bakery's first week. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

        While holding onto its first flouring, if you will, in Portal, the Cotton Patch Bakery has put on new growth with the Cotton Patch Bakery & Deli at 3000 Northside Drive West in Statesboro.
        "So many people have asked us to come to Statesboro, and the opportunity presented itself, so we decided to take it and go," said Cotton Patch owner Stephanie Cartee.
        She started her original bakery in a spare apartment behind her mother's home on the outskirts of Portal, next to a cotton field, in the autumn of 2009. When Cartee decided to go full-time, she and her husband bought and remodeled a small commercial building on U.S. Highway 80 in Portal in 2012.
        Her orders continue to grow for wholesale sweets and custom-decorated cakes. So Cartee has opened the Statesboro bakery and deli not as a replacement for the Portal shop but as a second location.
        However, the Portal bakery will now be devoted more to filling wholesale orders, Cartee said.
        "You can still go in there and get a cake, but it's more of the basics now," she said. "We've got most of the decorated cakes here in Statesboro."
        Both locations will carry, for example, a selection of Cotton Patch's signature 15-layer cakes.

Meals and meats
        But the Statesboro shop, which opened April 2, is a true deli, serving breakfast and lunch and also selling Boar's Head deli meats and cheeses by the pound.
        For breakfast, the new Cotton Patch offers wraps with fillings such as bacon, egg and cheese, as well as muffins in varieties like cappuccino and peaches-and-cream.
Scones and muffins are available throughout the day, and Cartee plans to add cinnamon rolls.
        The lunch menu features sandwiches, soups and salads. Among the nine sandwiches are the Cotton Club and the Little Italy as well as a Reuben and a pimento cheese panini.
        Artist Elaine Schneider, who painted the cotton patch scene on the Portal bakery's exterior, has done a wrap-around mural inside the new deli-bakery's party room. With some artistic leeway, such as Greek columns that aren't at the real farm, the mural depicts a view of a cotton field and pond from the home of Cartee's mother, Caroline Brannen-Brooks.
        Brannen-Brooks and a network of friends and relatives make craft items, such as quilts and baby blankets and seasonal novelties, which were already being sold at the Portal bakery. Now the Statesboro location has a little room devoted to these, as well as some of Schneider's paintings and Braswell's preserves.
        The bakery-deli is in the Towne Centre plaza, across Northside Drive from Food World. Here, Cartee is leasing the space.
        "We looked at other places around town, but this place fitted us for what we needed, and this side of town just didn't have a whole lot, so I think it works very well," she said.
Northside Drive West is also in the direction of Portal.

Two managers
        To manage her Statesboro deli and bakery, Cartee selected Cora Barrs, who started working at the Portal bakery last fall.
        Like Cartee, she has a home-based baking business background. Having learned baking from her mother, Barrs taught herself to decorate cakes as something she could do while spending time with her child with special needs.
        She worked from home this way for about five years, making wedding cakes, birthday cakes, anniversary cakes, "and just about anything anybody would give me to do, I would be doing it," Barrs said.
        Traffic at the new place was good the first week, she said.
        "We've had a great response," Barrs said "It's just going to keep growing."
        Meanwhile, another experienced cake boss, Giselle Bolton, is now manager of the bakery in Portal. She had worked there full-time with Cartee for about a year and previously taught Wilton cake decorating classes at Hobby Lobby.
        Three other Statesboro shops retail Cotton Patch cakes and sweets, which are also sold at multiple locations in Metter, another place in Portal and by a Millen caterer. The original bakery has shipped cakes as far as Alaska and Montana.
        Cotton Patch now has 12 employees, including full-time and part-time help.
        In an October interview, Cartee said she would like to see her little bakery expand.
        "I'd love to see it grow. I don't know how I would handle it," she said then, with a laugh. "It's going to be one of those wait-and-see type things, I guess."
        The wait wasn't long.
        Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.