Not Jus' Donuts will be the next Houston bakery featured on Buddy's Bakery Rescue (formerly titled Bakery Boss). The episode premieres Tuesday, July 29, at 9 p.m. on TLC.
We caught up with the owner Myrtle Jackson and her two daughters, Andrea Jackson and Rosharon Cotton, to talk about their experience filming the episode, what they learned from Buddy Valastro, aka "Cake Boss" and how their business has changed.
Myrtle established Not Jus' Donuts, located in the Third Ward at 2020 Dowling Street, in 2000. Since then, the family-owned and operated business has been creating custom cakes using skills and techniques passed down from Myrtle's aunt and grandmother, along with breads, pastries, cookies and pies - no doughnuts. But, nobody from the bakery applied to be on Buddy's Bakery Rescue. In fact, they still don't know who submitted their application.
"One Saturday, it was at our lowest moment; we wanted to shut down," Andrea says. "We were talking about just closing up and we received an email from Discovery Channel and they were scouting for new bakeries to be a part of the Buddy's Bakery Rescue show. It had a questionnaire and essay, so I took it home, finished the essay, emailed it probably that Monday and a few days later heard back from them."
After several interviews in person and over Skype, Myrtle and her two daughters began to suspect they were being chosen for the show.
"We were in limbo for another few months and then one Tuesday in August, our A/C was out and it was as hot as ever," Andrea recalls. "We saw these three or four vans of people just bombarding us, coming inside the bakery and it kind of scared us; we thought we were getting raided; thought it was a bust or something, and it was High Noon Entertainment, who produced the show."
In October 2013, the women were informed they would be featured on Buddy's Bakery Rescue. One month later, filming began. But before the crew got to work on remodeling the interior and exterior of the bakery, Valastro made sure their A/C unit was fixed. In June 2013, lightning struck the A/C unit outside.
"It was hot, I'm telling you. It was 103 degrees the day they came in [to interview] and when they came on November 2, they weren't supposed to do any work," Andrea says. "November 1 was when they actually had somebody come and repaired our A/C unit."
After Valastro entered the bakery (which came as another surprise), he started tasting their products. According to them, Valastro couldn't find many problems in the flavor.
"We saved the sweet potato pie for last and that's what he fell in love with," Andrea says. "He said it was the best he has ever had. That's all I'm going to say. He couldn't find issues with our stuff, which is a good thing."
One of the biggest issues Valastro had with Not Jus' Donuts was the way the women stored their products in the glass cases.
"We keep everything in closed packages. We are in Houston; it's humid here and cookies fall apart. We make them today, I promise you put them in the case, 30 minutes later, an hour later, they are crumbly," Andrea says. "We found a way to eliminate that and it's packing them in cellophane. He didn't like that. He said they look too commercial. But, we wanted to give it a little flare, but homemade products, so that was the disagreement we had. So, we did try that attempt for the first day."
In the end, Myrtle and her daughters got their way after proving to Valastro and the film crew that the cookies and other products would crumble into pieces if not packaged properly, which happened before the re-grand opening.
Internally, the family business struggled because of poor communication between Cotton and Andrea.
"The biggest takeaway is working together and my mom's legacy; that's the purpose of the business," Andrea says. "She started it to start a legacy for her family and for my sister and I to work together to make this bigger and better. And we can talk. Actually, she and I talk more than argue [now]. We used to argue a lot, so that was a big issue that he [Valastro] had...we were causing a hindrance to the business, so she and I do talk better. We have a moment or two."
Because Valastro is from New Jersey, he wanted the bakery to sell more pumpkin baked goods and other northern desserts. But any Southern person knows sweet potato beats pumpkin any day.
"When they came back and said some things that we could tweak or update our product with, a lot of the stuff was from up north," Cotton says. "Our customers don't like pumpkin pie, we have a few, but this is the south, they like more sweet potato, apple, but we have a few that like the pumpkin. A lot of their products were around pumpkin, and we were like no, here is sweet potato."
Now the bakery sells additional products deemed "Buddy Inspired" desserts. Instead of a pumpkin cheesecake, as suggested by Valastro, Andrea decided to make a sweet potato cheesecake tart. Not Jus' Donuts also sells banana split cakes, but instead of a regular sheet cake, they decided to make miniature versions. Valastro created a chocolate peanut butter cake for the bakery, too; Andrea decided to not mess with that dessert's recipe.
"We have been named a place that's called Not Jus' Donuts that never had doughnuts," Andrea notes. "So, we added more doughnuts, and next week [the week of the episode premiere] we will have a whole more degree of doughnuts and pastries."
Not Jus' Donuts will serve cake doughnuts, glazed doughnuts, chocolate doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and apple tarts along with the standard selection of cakes, pies and cookies. Now, the name of the bakery actually makes sense.
Before Valastro walked through their doors, most of their products were made without modern baking and pastry tools, something he made sure they received when they were done taping the episode.
"We were doing stuff by hand the hard way," Andrea says. "I don't know if you watch the show, but he likes to use that steamer; we were doing it by hand with vodka. [He gave us] every type of cutter, every type of rolling pin, every type of mat."
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Myrtle specializes in hand-made crafts and cakes, as well as decorating, drawing and baking. Some of the items she creates include dress shoes for cake toppers, toys and trinkets for birthday cakes, and flowers. Andrea describes herself as her mom's right hand and her passion is baking, while Cotton would rather decorate cakes using an air brusher and by drawing, than bake in the kitchen. The addition of new supplies has cut their decorating time in half.
"Me personally, I am going to say, Buddy took a special liking to us," Andrea says. "So it [the episode] aired a different way [than other episodes] I think. When I saw the [other] shows, some of those bakeries see the same thing as far as where their business is going, and with us, it took us in a different direction. We're not trying to figure out our product...or make a major improvement with our product. We have a product."
Myrtle adds, "He just wanted to teach us how to get to the next level. You will see that in the episode."
Not Jus' Donuts will hold a viewing party for the episode on Tuesday at Grooves, 2300 Pierce. The party starts at 7:30 p.m. with free desserts and food to purchase from the bar. No tickets are needed to enter the event, just come as you are, eat some sweets and stay to watch their episode at 9 p.m.