Since its opening in 2016, The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli has become much more than a local business.
Owner Jody Kreush, originally from New Jersey, said she always dreamed of opening her own restaurant. She worked for several years in the food service industry in Maryland and said she disliked how bosses would treat their staff. Kreush said she wanted to treat her staff like family.
“I wanted to do better with my staff,” Kreush said.
Kreush said she came up with the idea for the deli after visiting her brother in Hawaii and trying Hawaiian sweet bread. It took her about four years to perfect her sweet bread-based cinnamon roll recipe. When she moved to Columbia, she got the chance to make her entrepreneurial dream come true.
“I’ve always been wanting to open my own place, and I figured if I was going to work as hard as I did for someone else, I would do it for myself,” Kreush said.
Her vision for the menu was to combine food found in New York delis, similar to where she grew up, and cinnamon rolls. Traditional New York hot dogs, breakfast sandwiches and chili can be found on the menu.
Besides the cinnamon rolls, she said she prides herself on her grit bowls, which were spotlighted in People Magazine. The deli has different flavors for every day of the week, lending them the nickname "The Devine Shrimp and Grits Deli,” according to Kreush.
The deli offers many flavors of cinnamon rolls, including apple cobbler, wildberry graham cracker crumble and bourbon caramel. The Food Network website describes The Cinnamonster as the deli’s "starring attraction." Kreush came up with the idea for the massive, several-pound cinnamon roll as a birthday treat for a customer who loved the restaurant's cinnamon rolls. This one-time birthday creation soon became a favorite.
Before the deli opened, Jody had help from USC’s graphic design classes to create the design of the company logo and the menu as a class contest.
Richard Kreush, son and co-owner, said the restaurant’s success is due to the hardworking staff and the customer service but "the cinnamon rolls don’t hurt.”
He prioritizes his time in the kitchen and said he puts love into everything served to customers.
"It’s kind of a full package, really,” Richard Kreush said.
On a typical weekend, the store goes through about 250 to 300 full-size cinnamon rolls and up to 1,000 mini cinnamon rolls on a busy day.
According to Jody Kreush, their motto is “changing the world one cinnamon roll at a time.” She has donated cinnamon rolls to COVID-19 floors in hospitals, gives free drinks to first responders and veterans, lets local artists display their art on the walls and partners with local animal rescues.
“People are so stressed out right now that it's so important to do the most you can, to keep your prices low and do the most that you can for people,” Kreush said.
Kreush's compassion has impacted the lives of her staff members. Anna Harvley, a front of house co-supervisor who has been working at the deli for three years, said she loves all the people she works with. She said the staff's relationship with Jody goes "beyond just being the manager.”
Katie Ebinger, a front of house co-supervisor who has been working with Jody for almost three years, said the only reason they re-opened so soon was so the staff could continue paying bills. She said Kreush "deeply" cares about her staff and does what she can to take care of them.
“People have more in common than they do different. And food is one of those things that make us realize how much we have in common,” Kreush said.
According to Kreush, The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli respects everyone and does what it can for families and senior citizens. She has only been living in Columbia for seven years, but she cannot go anywhere without someone recognizing her.
First-year media arts student Cassidy McGee said the deli has good service and a friendly staff. The small size of the restaurant gives it a “homey and welcoming” atmosphere.
The deli has only been open for four years, but it has made an impact on people in Columbia. Jody said her success is due to her family, Richard Kreush and members of the community.
“We couldn’t have done it without the love and support of our whole family,” she said.