Lowcountry-based bakery chain Kudzu Bakery and Market expanded into the Midlands and opened a new location in the Forest Acres community in Columbia on Feb. 24.
Owners Kristi Gibbs and Kim McMurry, who met each other through their kids' school, have worked towards opening a Kudzu in Columbia for years. They began the process of opening the bakery chain during Summer 2018.
“It’s been a long journey,” McMurry said.
The pair sat down with the original owners, Joey and Stacy Rabon, for a three-hour-long meeting in 2018, where they finally got permission to open up a shop in the Columbia area.
"They thought we were just two moms who wanted to open a cute bakery," McMurry said. "They understood after we talked ... that we really were businesswomen and we knew what it took."
McMurry and Gibbs already own and operate four Pelican's SnoBalls locations and have worked in different retail capacities for years.
The Rabon's originally opened Kudzu Bakery in Georgetown, South Carolina. The bakery operates in three locations in South Carolina — in Litchfield, in Mount Pleasant and now, in Columbia.
The bakery sells everything from frozen food for family meals to popular pastry items such as chocolate chip cookies and pecan pie.
Kudzu’s coastal locations are typically beach themed, but McMurry and Gibbs said they’ve focused on giving their store a personality of its own. The store features Kudzu menu classics while also incorporating a new style.
“I mean our store, obviously, is different from the other stores. We wanted to bring in our personality,” McMurry said.
At the Columbia location, McMurry and Gibbs aimed to decorate the story to make customers feel at home. This includes home decorations for purchase and items such as luxury glassware from Estelle.
Ashley Lindler, a customer who stopped by the bakery, described the store’s atmosphere as “very clean and inviting." She said the place was bustling with customers within the first week of opening.
Happy Cafe left the Forest Drive area in late 2020, and Lindler said Kudzu fills its hole.
“I think that it’s great that they’re in the area, especially with Happy Cafe having left and their delicious caramel cakes no longer being in the Forest Acres community," Lindler said. "A bakery is exactly what we needed in Forest Acres."
Gibbs said they decided on the Forest Acres area because of its central location and because they both felt like it was the right fit.
"As you see we’re sold out of most of the food. It’s been amazing, truly a blessing," Gibbs said on the bakery's second day of operations.
Gibbs and McMurry said they've both felt welcomed by the community since they opened.
“I mean, we’ve been working our swollen feet off, but everybody has just been so gracious and so excited,” McMurry said.
Kudzu Bakery is located on Forest Acres Drive and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and is closed on Sunday.