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Birmingham’s Woodlawn community gets boost from eats, sweets

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The new location of Bayles Catering has plenty of dine-in space along with take-out. (Charlestan Helton/Alabama NewsCenter)
By Eduardo Medina
Alabama NewsCenter

Higher visibility and more space add up to a big boost for Velvet Kake in Woodlawn. (Charlestan Helton/Alabama NewsCenter)

The smell of buffalo chicken sizzling at Bayles Catering and chocolate drizzling at Velvet Kake is enticing customers to Woodlawn’s newest dining options.

With help from Woodlawn Foundation and REV Birmingham, the restaurants have transformed an abandoned building at 5829 First Ave. N.

Residents wanted a sit-down dining experience in the community, said David Fleming, CEO of REV Birmingham.

“This project is not only an example of the community leading the way to an outcome the community wants, but also of growing small businesses and filling vacant spaces,” Fleming said.

Bayles Catering owner Tony Bayles has seen big improvements in business already with his new location in Woodlawn. (Charlestan Helton/Alabama NewsCenter)

Bayles Catering has served Southern cuisine – with a twist – to many organizations and businesses throughout Alabama, ranging from 10 people to thousands.

Tony Bayles owns Bayles Catering and has seen drastic improvements already with the new location. The old location was more of a take-out spot, which the business had outgrown.

“Now our customers have the opportunity to sit down and enjoy their food while relaxing with friends and family,” Bayles said.

For Kenya Pickens, owner of Velvet Kake, having space to display and sell her delicacies was the next step in expanding her business. Now, chunk-sized cookies and thick slabs of cake decorate her bakery.

“People like the space,” Pickens said. “It’s been crazy to see how much it’s changed.”

Both eateries opened in June, and each updated its menu to give customers new desserts and dishes to try. For Bayles Catering, the deep-fried grits and shrimp is a new favorite, and Pickens said her business won over new customers with a strawberry shortcake crunch.

The economic development has given Joe Ayers, real estate director for Woodlawn Foundation, plenty to be proud of.

“Both Mr. Bayles and Ms. Pickens are shining examples of the economic opportunity we have to offer here in

Bayles Catering serves Southern cuisine with a twist. (Charlestan Helton/Alabama NewsCenter)

Woodlawn,” Ayers said. “We’re excited to not only fill a need here in our community but also provide a platform upon which they can grow their respective businesses.”

The reward for Bayles comes from “being a staple in the community and providing jobs,” he said.

“It’s hard work, it’s demanding, but that’s why we’re here – we’re passionate about what we’re doing,” Bayles said. “We want to make good-quality food for our neighborhood for a good price.”

Pickens said as soon as the opportunity for a storefront came, she knew it would change her life. She just needed a place to set up, and the rest would come. As for the actual cakes, her mother always has a hunch for what customers want.

Velvet Kake owner Kenya Pickens says her new location in Woodlawn is just what her business needed. (Charlestan Helton/Alabama NewsCenter)

“Most of the cakes that she told me about – like the lime cake, banana pudding and red velvet – are really, really popular,” Pickens said. “I guess I better start listening to her more – you know how mothers are.”

People can place orders with Velvet Kake on location or by calling 205-202-4191. The bakery closes on Mondays but is open at various times throughout the week.

Bayles Catering is open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Mondays through Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To contact him for catering, visit baylescatering.com.