Editor’s Note: In honor of the Log Cabin Democrat Best Of Faulkner County awards, this month’s Nana’s Kitchen highlights local bakery owner Julie Goodnight. Julie’s Sweet Shoppe & Bakery won four dining categories and was selected by readers: Best Bakery; Best Doughnuts; Best Dessert; and Best Local Coffee Shop. More than 220,000 votes were cast online and in paper ballots in the 2018 Best Of contest, which culminated in an event held August 9 at The Brick Room in Conway.

Editor’s Note: In honor of the Log Cabin Democrat Best Of Faulkner County awards, this month’s Nana’s Kitchen highlights local bakery owner Julie Goodnight. Julie’s Sweet Shoppe & Bakery won four dining categories and was selected by readers: Best Bakery; Best Doughnuts; Best Dessert; and Best Local Coffee Shop. More than 220,000 votes were cast online and in paper ballots in the 2018 Best Of contest, which culminated in an event held August 9 at The Brick Room in Conway.

F

rom childhood, Julie Goodnight had a sweet tooth. She makes no apologies about her love for anything sweet, and smiles at the memory of her 5-year-old self feasting on cookies and icing while her father, Ed, went about his business as a bakery manager. 

“My dad managed Simon’s Bakery for years, and one of my fondest memories was going to the bakery on Sundays after church,” she says, smiling. “While Dad checked on [equipment], I would get into everything I could. He had these tubes of icing we would eat and we would try all the cookies.”

As Julie came up in the family business — her grandmother Margie Bradley worked for years at Koehler’s Bakery in North Little Rock and her father eventually opened Ed’s Bakery in Conway after many years as a bakery manager  —  she learned to put that sweet tooth to work, and she passed it on to her children and grandbaby. 

“My daughter did the same thing I did when we were at Ed’s,” Julie says. “She was as bad as me! Now, my granddaughter does the same thing when she comes in here!”

Julie and husband, Larry, have two children, Megan (21) and Bradley (27). 

Megan is a nursing student at Arkansas Tech on full scholarship and plays on the softball team. Bradley works as a teacher for Arch Ford. His daughter Doreen is the first grandchild and at 2 and a half years old, is probably the sweetest aspect of their lives. Doreen calls her grandmother “JuJu,” and Julie almost giggles at the thought.

“I get to see her any time I want,” Julie says. “We share a driveway with my son, so I always enjoy playing with her, and you can see from the pictures in the bakery she is very loved! We do try to avoid [the Shoppe] as much as we can because of the candy wall. That’s the first thing all the kids go to is the Jelly Belly display!”

And family is the key to everything, she says. The Goodnights live in a small area north of Conway surrounded by siblings and in-laws. Recipes used at the Shoppe are often passed on from family members, too. At some points along the way, Julie has called in help, and her family is always at the ready to step in. 

“My world revolves around family. When we get together as a family for meals, usually on Sundays, it’s always the simple things,” she says. “My family loves my lemon chicken, which I don’t even have a recipe for. It’s just something I whipped up on my own.

“I like to cook spaghetti, and I always add Polish sausage in the sauce or on the side. Both my grandmothers are Polish. I try to always have that so we don’t forget our heritage. It’s a small thing, but my grandmother always served Polish sausage. I keep that alive by serving that.”

The professional baker doesn’t use recipes at home, she admits. Favorite dishes are made from memory.

“My family makes fun of how honest I am,” she laughs. “But I do use cake mixes at home from time to time!”

Five years ago on November 11 — Veterans Day — Julie opened the Sweet Shoppe at the Towne Centre on Skyline Drive. It was time, she says, to leave her father’s business (he no longer owned the bakery having sold it to Julie and a partner years before) and start something of her own. And customers followed her in droves, many of them her beloved veterans who share hours together at the coffee spot.

And the love for Julie is evident if you spend any time in the Shoppe. Every person who walks through the door is greeted with a smile and a personal hello from the owner. She asks about families and health issues and prayers needed and whether they’ll be ordering the same cake from last year’s celebration or whether they’ll want something new and fun.

The bakery is an extension of family, too, Julie says. Her workers are close-knit and lean on each other through life’s journey.

It’s a community atmosphere, and for the veterans, especially, a place of support and sharing.

“I was listening to the radio one day a long time ago, and I heard stories of veterans during this one program,” she says. “It just went through me. When I first started celebrating veterans when I was at Ed’s, we had 25 World War II veterans. I have maybe three left. 

“I had two grandfathers who served in World War II and I don’t know anything about what they did. I was so young and not interested, maybe a little dumb. I regret not knowing, but they just didn’t talk about it. I call these guys my ‘Bakery Dads,’ and I have quite a few.”

Five years and too many long hours to count, Julie has built a brand she’s proud of. Her teal cake boxes are purposeful, meant to remind customers of Tiffany & Co.

“When my customers get that box, I want them to know there is something of quality and beautiful inside,” she says.

Julie’s Sweet Shoppe & Bakery caters for a number of organizations, including the University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix College and area hotels among them. She is proud of the work she does for the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion parties and celebrations, including a multi-tiered 80th wedding anniversary cake designed for the longest married couple in Arkansas, which she completed in February.

“I love to decorate more than anything,” Julie admits. “I have seen what that does for people, and it makes my heart so happy.”

If you know a favorite family cook and would like to nominate them for a feature, please email ksublett@thecabin.net.