Since opening in 2004, the Sugar Magnolia Bakery and Cafe has become a cornerstone in a part of downtown that has experienced a lot of change.
Surrounded by a number of empty storefronts on East Main Street and Savannah Avenue, the bakery has managed to thrive, creating a loyal customer base that swears by the bakery's offerings.
Georgia Southern University professor Mark Welford has come to Sugar Magnolia virtually every day since it opened.
"The quality of food is just tremendous," Welford said. "It is simple, but at the same time, it really isn't. There is a complexity to everything that they make. It is a complexity and depth that is achieved with just a few ingredients. The food is just delightful."
Co-owner Barry Turner attributes the flexibility that comes with being a small business as the key to the bakery's success.
"Over the years, we have tried different things, and some of them have been successful, and some of them haven't," he said. "If something doesn't work, then we just quit doing it, whether it is something we make, or something to do with the operation itself."
Originally dubbed the Sugar Magnolia Bakery and Market, the bakery's name was changed to reflect its move away from the original idea of offering a gourmet food market in addition to the bakery to a cafe with additional seating. Turner does not carry the inventory of gourmet products that he used to, opting to focus on freshly prepared foods, in addition to his bakery items.
"We always had bakery items that we prepared every day such as bread, pastries, sandwiches at lunch, and the like," Turner said. "But then, a few years ago, we started making pizzas to sell on Friday nights. Then we began to sell pizza on Thursday nights. Both of those nights have grown to be very big for us, and we are so proud of that. "
Turner said the local farmers market in downtown has also helped the bakery evolve.
"Since the farmers market began, we have had a table there," he said. "We have also tried to use the fresh ingredients that are sold there on our pizzas, and in our different lunch and weekend brunch items. It's inspirational, and we kind of feed off of one another."
One of those inspirations that is a direct result of the bakery's interaction with the farmer's market is Sugar Magnolia's Burger Night on Saturdays.
"We are using grass-fed beef from Southern Swiss who are also regular vendors at the market," Turner said. "Hamburger night has been a huge success. It has really taken off."
Other loyal customers such as Georgia Southern professor Patrick Novotny feel the bakery's support of local artists has resulted in the bakery becoming a mainstay for the arts community.
"Steve (Jones) and Barry do such a good job of supporting local farmers and the arts that the bakery has really become integrated into the arts community," he said. "From hosting poetry and live music, it's almost like a little bit of California in Statesboro. Steve sort of brings that to the table."
Turner's partner Steve Jones worked in bakeries in California for a number of years before he and his family moved to Statesboro.
"Like I have said before, it was just very lucky that I found out about Steve," Turner said. "The ironic thing is that he lives down the street from us. He wanted to open a bakery, and I felt Statesboro needed one, so it has really worked out."
Another change recently implemented was the sale of beer and wine.
"We don't do a tremendous business with it, but people do enjoy, and want the opportunity to have a beer, or a glass of wine with their pizza or burger, so we felt it was a good time to introduce that," he said.
Turner said his wife Marilyn is also a co-owner and has been a big part of the bakery's evolution.
"She has been so instrumental in coming up with the ideas for the bakery, and our son is now the manager," he said. "Steve's sons also work here. It is very much a family affair, and we think people can sense the community here."