Bun Appetit! finds a loyal following for its baked goods at local farmers markets.
by Cameron Crews | photographs by Jennings Roddey
After growing tired of generic shopping-mall cinnamon rolls, Charlotte couple Jay Byrd and Maria Caceres decided to start making their own. They knew they wanted to start a business together, and they wanted to offer something authentic for the people of Charlotte.
Neither of them has a formal culinary background: Jay is originally from West Virginia and worked as a restaurant architect. Maria, a Guatemala native, is a hospitality worker at the airport and at Stoke at Charlotte Marriott City Center.
“We were looking around at different things … and we just kind of started with cinnamon rolls one day,” Byrd says.
Through lots of trial and error, they finally perfected their dough and got to baking. In 2018, their business was born. They creatively named it Bun Appetit!, a play on the French phrase “bon appetit” meaning “enjoy your meal.”
“We love our name. Bun Appetit is fun and catchy,” Caceres says.
Without a brick-and-mortar store, they had to get creative with how they sold their buns. Jay, the marketing mastermind behind the brand, had the idea to go to office buildings and offer samples. Before they knew it, the office workers were calling back and ordering dozens of buns. They also set up booths at local farmers markets to attract new customers. Then the Covid-19 pandemic shut everything down.
“Everybody was staying at home … I was used to working Saturdays and Sundays, which are big days for breakfast or lunch,” Caceres says. “I was like, we’re gonna have to find out what to do now.”
They set up stands in neighborhoods and at apartment complexes in order to connect with the community during that difficult time. But it was their booth at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market, where they often sell out within two hours, that helped Bun Appetit grow exponentially, the couple says. To keep up with demand, the duo recently moved to a larger space and purchased new equipment to help make the bun-making process easier.
“You have to love it, because it’s a lot of work,” Caceres says. “But it’s worth it. We go to the market and [we] have people that come back every Saturday. They’re like, ‘I’m waiting for Saturday to come to see you.’ That’s it — you forgot that you were up all night [baking].” If they don’t sell out at the market, which they say is rare, they deliver leftovers to local police and fire stations. Byrd and Caceres also credit their family members in helping with Bun Appetit’s success. Jay’s brother and nephew help run farmers market booths.
Their flavors rotate every week, while some staples stay the same. Recent offerings include caramel pecan sticky bun, lemon curd and raspberry jam, and a croissant bun flavored with orange zest, cinnamon and brown sugar.
Despite a brisk business, the partners don’t have any immediate plans to open a brick-and-mortar store.
“We are actually thinking that we might just stay with the farmers markets because they’re such a strong sense of community, and we like it,” Caceres says. SP
To buy buns from Bun Appetit! visit their website bunsyall.com (buns are delivered on Thursdays) or visit the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market, the Uptown Farmers Market or the Waxhaw Farmers Market every Saturday. Follow @bunappetitclt on Instagram for updates.