Wednesday, July 2, 2014

People in the Loop: She Smiles When She Talks

When I told my friend Diane Oberkrom I wanted to write a story about her and title it "she smiles when she talks" she laughed. I told her, "You really do smile when you talk, you know!" 

She smiles when she answers the phone and when she bakes her latest mouthwatering treat from her Soul Food Market kitchen.

Diane Oberkrom, owner of The Soul Food Market, is giddy over the recipe she calls, "Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Cushion." 
Actually it is a gourmet sandwich cookie. 

Her life has not been an easy journey but she is trusting a Higher Power than her circumstances. Diane is a widow and a single mom to son Augie, who's a rising senior at Creekview High School. "I think I was just born with a happy disposition. I've always been a smiler," she said, smiling of course.

Diane was raised in the church. Her parents and grandparents are Christians and have lived lives of faithfulness to God. It's all she's known growing up. "I have always been easy going and I try to do what is right -- not perfectly of course. But I didn't get mad at God when my husband died -- I certainly didn't expect it to happen, of course! He died in his sleep. Augie was 8 years old at the time and he asked me what actually happened to his dad. I didn't plan to answer him the way I did, it just came out of my mouth. I said to him, 'Jesus came to our house and took Dad with him.'  I've just always trusted Jesus.'"

While Diane was a successful corporate banker working in downtown Atlanta she kept having dreams night after night of starting her own bakery. She'd awaken in the night and write down recipes for cookies, cakes and cupcakes.  She dreamed of putting Bible verses on business card-size tags and attaching them to each morsel. You know, in the same way fortune cookies have a message attached.

She followed that dream of establishing The Soul Food Market in 2005. It began as an online bakery.  The soul in the name isn't from a menu of collard greens and cornbread. Nope. The dream was to delight the palate of her guests as well as nourish their souls with the Good News of Scripture. She was compelled  to attach a Scripture tag to each cookie and cupcake she baked. Bobby Greene of Greene's Blueprinting in the Downtown Loop has always made Diane's Scripture cards.

The Soul Food Market blessed the gals at the Totally Devoted gatherings 
every week with mini muffins and encouraging Scripture on each tag.

She smiles broadly when she answers the phone for takeout orders and catering gigs. Yes, she's been catering weddings, conferences, bridal showers, baby showers and birthday bashes. You give Diane a theme for your next event and she'll prepare your food in the colors and tastes that complement your party. 

She's shipped gift boxes of her goodies to all 50 states and three countries. "I wanted to be a disciple to all nations and the salt of the earth but instead of just salt I'm the flour, sugar, butter and salt! In the Downtown Loop I wanted to reach as many people as I could. So on Saturdays we'd pulled a large red wagon full of our food and serve the farmers at the Farmer's Market since they couldn't leave their truckloads of vegetables to come to The Soul Food Market. I have also pulled the red wagon to the courthouse and lawyers' offices to deliver their lunches and desserts." 

Her business grew and she was led to a storefront in the Historic Downtown Canton Loop:  the kitchen/lunch counter inside Yawn's Books & More on Main Street, owned by Farris and his mother Nadine Yawn. Diane's menu kept growing. She was serving lunches to local attorneys, jurors from the Cherokee County Courthouse across the street from Yawn's, and drop-ins who heard about the Soul Food Market.

Diane (wearing the hat) prepared lunches for our weekly Totally Devoted gathering at 
Yawn's Books & More. 
Yawn's Co-owner Nadine Yawn in sitting next to Diane.
 I pulled Diane away from her lunch counter long enough to get her in the picture. 

From the beginning she has named her creations like a loving mother gives pet names to her beloved children. And she's not just giving whimsical and clever names to her sweet treats but also her lunch menu of salads, soups and sandwiches. She named cupcakes after city officials such a chocolate cupcake with chocolate butter cream icing and a Chocolate Malted Milk Ball inside -- was named "Tall, Dark and Handsome" in honor of the firemen. 

When Elvis Impersonator Damon Hendrix came to perform at the Canton Theater, Diane sold freshly made grilled peanut butter sandwiches, banana and bacon sandwiches and two desserts in honor of Elvis -- and Damon's performance. The "Love Me Tender" dessert was a banana cupcake with peanut butter, butter cream frosting and bacon crumbles and the "Blue Suede Shoes" cupcake had blue butter cream frosting.

Diane Oberkrom at her counter inside Yawn's Books & More,  holding the cupcakes honoring the Elvis Impersonator performance by Damon Hendrix 
at the Canton Theater.

Diane moved into her business a couple storefronts from Yawn's. She was continuing to serve local business owners and county and city officials. She also provided a weekly lunch for our Totally Devoted gathering. 
Diane Oberkrom (standing) in The Soul Food Market space on Main Street.

Yawn's has moved into a newly renovated location on the other side of the Loop, operating Yawn's Publishing. These upgrades are continuing for several businesses!

Today, The Soul Food Market is creating tasty trademark sandwich wraps and desserts for Peter Williams' trendy new coffee bar called can find Peter and Diane inside the hip hangout in Historic Downtown Canton called Audio Intersection. Did I mention it's the renovated space formerly known as Yawn's Books & More?

Photo dated May 2011

Photo dated July 2014

And meet CupUp Coffee Bar Owner/Barista Peter Williams, who is pictured checking his food case filled with The Soul Food Market's trademark treats. 

Wherever The Soul Food Market is located, Diane is going to be whipping up delicious, entertaining new menu items and always serving them with a smile. That's just how she rolls.

Oh, folks, the Dry Bones of Ezekiel 37 are slowly connecting and coming back to life! Check out the passage for yourself and see how it happens! The Old Testament. The Book of Ezekiel. Chapter 37.

This story is not over. It's just beginning. And it's not my story. It's HIS story.

psalm 34:3