By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
February 1, 2023
Kennedy Black works 14 hours a day running her own small business that she started in the middle of the pandemic…and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “God put me here at the right time, because somebody needed it,” she says.
“I like baking and making drinks,” she explains. “But I’m not just making a person’s coffee. I’ve cried and prayed with my customers who were just diagnosed with cancer. That connection is what I love about doing this.”
Spend any amount of time in her shop, located on the main drag in downtown White Sulphur Springs, and you will see how closely connected to her customers she is. She knows them all by name, what they order, and how they like it. During my interview with her, one of her regulars who was moving to Florida came inside. He had to stop by to thank her and take “one last” drink for the road.
One couple drives an hour to visit her shop every single Saturday.
Recently, a customer came in and confided she was facing a serious health matter that she hadn’t even told her family about. Kennedy listened, prayed with her, and her customer’s life has turned around for the better.
“Being part of someone’s life on a personal level is what it’s all about,” she says.
As you might imagine, there’s a story behind the name “Tootsie’s.” Kennedy’s great-grandmother was Edna Maxine Groves. Better known to locals as Tootsie, she worked in the restaurant industry her whole career at O’Neils and then at Granny’s Truckstop in Hart’s Run.
In high school, people called Edna “Tootsie,” and it stuck. She was a legend working at Granny’s, where she made homemade pies daily that locals and truckers alike drove for miles to eat.
“She died in 2000,” remembers Kennedy. “I was just five. So I didn’t get to learn to cook from her, but she’s an important part of my life and now I get to honor her memory here.”
Edna’s portrait hangs prominently on the wall when you walk inside. Her smile is as genuine as Kennedy’s.
A day in Kennedy’s Life
Kennedy arrives at the shop each day by 3am. She bakes all her products for the day–muffins, cookies, scones, cakes, and more. She opens the doors at 7am. Many of her regulars come in between 7-10am. When she has time, she begins baking any special orders or food items between 10am-12pm. Her lunch rush is from 12-2pm. She begins to clean up for the day around 3pm, closes the door at 4pm, and heads home by 5pm. If you’re counting, that’s a 14-hour day where she runs every single facet of her own small business. From baking to cleaning to website maintenance.
“There are days you’re exhausted,” she confides. “I want to be here regularly and consistently so people know they can count on me.”
At the same time, she says she has learned the importance of making healthy decisions. “One day, I was exhausted and everything just went wrong,” she remembers. “So I just closed, went home, and slept the rest of the day.”
She says, “If you are honest with your customers, they understand. I had to close for three days due to a potential COVID exposure. They appreciated that I told them the truth and took precautions to protect them.”
The good stuff
Kennedy prepares a variety of fresh baked goods each day. Blueberry muffins are the most popular item alongside her coffee and drinks.
She offers grab & go lunches outside winter. This Wednesday, she offered biscuits & gravy for the very first time. She sold out in a few hours. Her customers requested breakfast options, so she will be rolling out various biscuits and sandwiches in the coming weeks.
Customers can pre-order online or stop by and order in-person.
She takes orders for specialty items like cakes, cupcakes, and cheesecakes as well. She asks that folks give her at least one week’s notice for those items.
“Someone can go to WalMart and buy a good cake for $20,” she says. “But you can’t get what I make. What I provide is unique.”
People say her prices are ‘too low’
Kennedy raised prices this year for the first time. She says while people point to egg prices these days, everything is up–eggs, flour, sugar, oil. She said people always tell her she should be charging more for her items, but she is insistent about keeping prices affordable.
“I don’t price for travelers who expect to pay more,” she explains. “I grew up with a single mom, and that’s what I keep in mind. I price items for a single mom and a working family living around here like I was growing up. That’s important to me.”
Tootsie’s is open Tuesday-Saturday from 7am-4pm. Visit Kennedy online at www.tootsiesplacewv.com or in person at 728 East Main Street in downtown White Sulphur Springs, WV.