After years of work, Louisville baker set to open first storefront on E. Broadway

Jerrica Tinsley, owner of Norma Jean's Baked Goods, is expected to open her store at 821 E. Broadway on October 1.
Published: Oct. 2, 2022 at 9:37 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - If you close your eyes, open your ears and step foot inside 821 E. Broadway, you just might think you were back in your grandmother’s kitchen.

In reality, you’re in an unfinished brick building, waiting for the finishing touches before it can realize its potential.

Jerrica Tinsley, wrapped in her vintage polka dots, is sweeping up the checkered floors, while containers of cake sit on a folding table nearby, waiting for the next customer.

Though unfinished, Norma Jean’s Baked Goods has never felt farther along.

“I have always loved to bake,” Tinsley said. “I begged for an Easy Bake Oven and then cried knowing immediately that the cake wasn’t going to turn out like my mother’s cake. And she actually took the initiative to teach me how to bake on the regular oven because of my disappointment in that Easy-Bake oven. And I never looked back.”

Since the Easy Bake Oven, Tinsley’s sweet tooth has carried her through life.

It helped her get through the stress of being a teen mother, and helped her balance her life as a 28-year-old real estate agent, baking special orders that never really seemed to stop coming in.

Eventually, something had to give.

“It’s just become part of me, my identity, and everything,” Tinsley said. “So I really enjoy it. And it’s just one of those things that when you know you found it when you can’t walk away from it.”

Tinsley’s husband gave her the extra push to lean in to her passion. He helped her get a lease at Chef Space on W. 18th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Ali, a community kitchen where Tinsley could use the industrial ovens to churn out her cakes and get her business whipped up off the ground.

“What was cool about Chef Space [is that] there are other businesses in there,” Tinsley said. “So if you go in at 11 at night, you might not have that much motivation. You might be like, uh, I don’t want to do this. But you’re literally working alongside other people that are building and working on their dream. And they’re just as tired as you. They may be a little bit farther along; they may be at their starting point. But there’s something about being surrounded by people that have similar goals that will push you and motivate you in ways that like...I might be tired but then I’ll would see somebody at 4:00 in the morning trudging in all these boxes, and I’m like, ‘I can do that. I need to get up.’”

So she did, baking overnights to make ends meet and allow her to spend more time with her family.

“Working at night was a choice, because even though I would do a majority of my deliveries during the day, that is what was freeing up my schedule to get my kids to school, to help with homework, to eat dinner with my husband, to cook him lunch, you know, things like that,” Tinsley said. “And it was a decision I made to bake third shift just to kind of free my life back up.”

Tinsley spent two years at Chef Space, slowly but surely layering the foundation of her brand.

She earned a wholesale partnership with the SeaFood Lady, providing the desserts for her business. She was also tasked with baking and providing the spread for Chef Space’s Christmas events.

Eventually, she moved the business to Mall St Matthews, operating for two more years out of a sales floor kiosk, selling at retail prices.

She was working more hours than ever and having more success than ever.

“[It was] amazing, amazing, like baking 60 hours a week and then selling out in two days and having to bake again for the third day.,” Tinsley said. “Like, it got really...it was getting really crazy. I was in business at the mall for three months and there was a day I had 150 sales and I was only there for four hours and we sold out and I had to leave early.”

Despite the success, the 34-year-old businesswoman had always had her eye on a storefront, and in March 2022, mixed her plan into motion.

She leased the property on E. Broadway and finally turned her traveling bakery into a brick and mortar, hoping to transform the unfinished brick building into the modern version of grandma’s kitchen.

“I want Norma Jean’s to be the next Betty Crocker,” Tinsley said. “And it went from just being, ‘oh this is a brand that’s cool,’ but I want it to be a brand. That’s where we’re headed for. I want to retire my husband. That’s what I want to do.”

Tinsley said she plans to open her business on Oct. 1.