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Paul’s Pastry Shop takes big bite of king cake industry

Goodness Galore: Paul’s Pastry employee Alyssa Frierson stacks freshly made king cakes for store customers as thousands are being loaded out back in a container for shipping around the United States. Crews worked through out the night to have  enough of the Mardi Gras staple to meet customer demand. Jodi Marze | Picayune Item

Goodness Galore: Paul’s Pastry employee Alyssa Frierson stacks freshly made king cakes for store customers as thousands are being loaded out back in a container for shipping around the United States. Crews worked through out the night to have enough of the Mardi Gras staple to meet customer demand.
Jodi Marze | Picayune Item

Many people would choose New Orleans as the King Cake capital of the world, but Paul’s Pastry has made the king cake a year-round offering allowing Picayune to have a large slice of the industry’s business.

King cake season extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Twelfth Night and Epiphany Day), up until Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday;” Mardi Gras marks the day before the start of Lent.

Paul’s Pastry owner Sherri Thigpen says this timeframe makes up 50 to 60 percent of the shop’s annual business.

While there are many versions of king cake from around the world, Thigpen believes they have such a large niche of the market because of their proprietary dough which they began using back in the 1970s.

“We started the trend of filled king cakes back in 1972,” Thigpen said.  “Our dough is proprietary dough and the way our king cakes are different as well. We were also the first to begin making our pecan praline version. This was back in the 1970s, as well.”

In addition to the pecan praline flavor, Paul’s Pastry has many big sellers.

“The pecan praline and strawberry and cream are the top sellers this year for orders being delivered to residences,” Thigpen said. “Berry deluxe is the top flavor chosen as corporate gifts.”

Thigpen sends out orders to all of the fifty states each year.

“Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras day are like Christmas Eve at the North Pole around here,” she said. “The night crew started at 7 p.m. yesterday. Crews have been working through the clock and the result is that today we are shipping over 1,100 king cakes to people and companies throughout the United States.”

Monday afternoon, Thigpen was in the process of stacking boxes into a container that will carry more 900 individually packaged king cakes directly to the airport for shipping. Another container truck was scheduled to bring an additional 200 plus boxes to the airport for shipping that afternoon.

“UPS trucks have been coming every day. It is only the Monday prior to Fat Tuesday that they send the big container,” Thigpen said. “But they come and pick up orders daily beginning in December.”

Thigpen credits the success of the large operation to her small, tightknit group of employees.

“It is hard work and our employees stick with us,” she said. “We have to stay until the work gets done. They understand that these are going to businesses and personal residences across the United States. We cannot let our customers down.”

Thigpen said it is all hands on deck and that includes relatives of employees.

“We have Suzie Evans and her daughter Ashley working with us. But during king cake season, the other two daughters will come and work as well. We have other employees who do the same. It is a family and we stick it out together.”