By Anna Grace Moore
Photos by Blair Ramsey
Although joy is often referenced in historial climaxes or even as a semblance of a kind-hearted, calming spirit, rarely is such an emotion thought of when tasting delectable delicacies.
The power of food is not necessarily within the bites one takes; rather, it is ensued in the emotions that bubble up inside those who share the luxury of conversing over meals.
Often, people feel most at peace when their bellies are full, and their hearts are full, too. Baker Jennifer Dimbo, owner of Nana Bakes, understands this sentiment and strives to create these feel-good emotions not only within each bite her customers take, but also within each moment she takes, getting to know her customers.
A mom to two and a nana to three, Jennifer got her start at her daughter’s first baby shower, crafting cookies, brownie jars and a red velvet cake. The anticipated bundle of joy, MacKenzie, is now 10 years old, and the reason Jennifer, “Nana,” got her business’ name.
Jennifer soon afterwards became a nana to her now 5-year-old grandsons, Braylen and Brendyn. But, she always made time for her oldest granddaughter, who sometimes felt a little left out, learning how to share the love with her new brothers at home.
“Baking was just my and MacKenzie’s little thing to do together,” Jennifer says.
Jennifer was still working for AllState at the time, making desserts for her team and hosting holidays–always bringing savory sweets. Jennifer’s husband encouraged her to go out on her own, supporting her dream of being a business owner and professional baker, too.
Jennifer filed for her LLC in December 2017, and it became official in January 2018. She began working from Chef’s Workshop in Hoover, and as her product line grew, so did her customer base.
“It takes tough skin to run a small business,” Jennifer says of navigating life during the pandemic. “When the pandemic shut everything down in 2020, I came up with what I call a ‘quarantine pack.’ I would put a menu out every Monday morning. It would have 20 items on it.”
Jennifer accumulated more than 30 orders in her first week. She began delivering orders to customers every Friday.
Jennifer soon after partnered with her friend, Susan, of Mama Suz’s Fried Pies, and opened a commercial kitchen in Pelham, where the duo operated for a year together before growing so much that Jennifer went out to open her own space. During this time, Jennifer also began having her products sold in local gas stations and stores in Leeds, Alabaster and Hoover.
She eventually amassed 22 local vendors who all sold her products.
Spread too thin and needing a space to call her own, Jennifer opened Nana Bakes in Liberty Park in the former Big Sky Bread Company space in 2022. She credits her success to her family and her customers’ support.
“I love all of my customers,”Jennifer says. “I turn customers into forever friends. They come back and support me over and over again.”
One customer in particular travels several hours one way from Mississippi just to purchase Jennifer’s oatmeal cream pies as gifts. Others have followed Jennifer from event to event, attending local farmers markets and craft shows just to sample some of her “baked-with-love goods.”
“I always take an extra chair with me to events because I always end up having someone in the booth with me,” Jennifer says of her customer’s support. She knows almost every customer’s name by heart.
When asked about customer favorites, Jennifer says of her cakes, cookies, pies, bread pudding, banana pudding and more, her brownie jars are by far the most popular. With 47 different flavors to choose from, there’s always something for everyone.
One of Jennifer’s favorite brownie jars is “The Buster Brown,” which is a caramel brownie that is named after one of the only types of shoes Jennifer’s father would allow her and her siblings to wear growing up. Another is the “Sassy Nana,” compliments of MacKenzie.
She does not cut corners, either. Every product Jennifer makes is made-from-scratch with only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients.
“I can’t cut corners, or my baking won’t be authentic,” Jennifer says. “It won’t be homemade.”
Every recipe is also unique as well. Jennifer has often “dreamed up” recipes in her sleep, waking up in the middle of the night to begin baking what she dreams.
Jennifer jokes that she hoards fruit, buying only the best of the best from local farmers. Because people support her business, she vows to support other local businesses, too.
While Jennifer loves getting to be creative and the front-facing aspect of her business, she says baking with love is the best part of the job. She believes that customers can taste whether pastries are baked with love or with a frown.
“Baking is an art,” Jennifer says. “I try to cook with love, so when people do have my desserts, they know I put some thought into it. I put detail in my baking, even if it’s just in a jar. I try to personalize each jar, too.”
Though time consuming, this “baking with love” process is how Jennifer says she brings joy to her customers and hopes to brighten their days, one bite at a time.
She says if every baker could keep in mind the power that food holds, every bite would not only taste even more delicious, but would also bring people together because joy is contagious.
Visit Nana Bakes in person at 1940 Stonegate Drive on Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Customers can also get more information and order online at alittlelovinfromnanasoven.com.
Visit Nana Bakes at each of these upcoming events for some savory goodness.
- Vintage Market Days of Birmingham
- Moss Rock Art Festival
- Birmingham Home Show
- The Strawberry Festival
- The Market at Brock’s Gap