BIRMINGHAM – Designer Chef Kristal Bryant grew up in a family that had a passion for cooking, and she knew at a young age that she wanted to become a chef. Now, with more than 18 years of professional experience in the food industry, she’s known for “detailed perfection” in every showpiece she creates. Bryant, owner of K & J’s Elegant Pastries, is the Bronze Alabama Retailer of the Year in the Annual Sales Less Than $1 Million category. K & J’s Elegant Pastries is one of 11 businesses honored as the 2022 Retailers of the Year by the Alabama Retail Association.
“While offering many other sweet treats such as cupcakes, pastries, cookies and so much more, we pride ourselves on our unique designs that are custom made,” said Bryant. “We bake with the freshest ingredients and offer the best quality product for the best price.” K & J’s has also expanded its products to include ice cream, which has earned national media exposure for its Kollosal Milkshakes, towering creations often featuring baked goods as well as ice cream. “Our national TV exposure, such as Good Morning America and Food Network, has allowed us the opportunity to travel beyond our state and create wedding cakes in the entire the Southeast region. We also have reoccurring cooking segments on Fox 6 every month, which expands our reach farther than the Birmingham area.”
Established in 2013 in Alabaster, the business relocated to Birmingham in April 2022. “According to our reports, 65% of our customer base were Birmingham residents, so we decided to move to downtown Birmingham,” Bryant said. “The increase in sales are dramatically more than we expected. (Since moving), we are up more than 600% in sales and our DoorDash options increased by 1,700%.” The move also placed them in a prime location for major events. “We are looking forward to our largest projected profit year with the World Games and all the large events taking place in our front yard,” Bryant said.
“Moving downtown really helped,” one of the Retailer of the Year judges noted.
The business also operates a mobile food truck. “Our sales improved drastically from 2020 to 2021 mainly due to our mobile food truck operation,” said Bryant. “When COVID hit, we had to improvise and adapt. We were able to continue our business and remain successful during the pandemic by operating curbside from our storefront and taking Pinky (the food truck) into neighborhoods when everyone was homebound.”
“Kristal is truly a creative pioneer when it comes to creating new flavors for pastries or intricate designs for birthday cakes,” wrote Erika Dix, a partner with the Birmingham Business Alliance, which nominated Bryant and K & J’s. “The staff, no matter how busy, welcomes each guest with a smile and offers fast and efficient customer service. Guests often brag about them feeling like family when they leave K & J’s.”
The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999, honor retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their respective communities. This year’s winners were selected from 42 entries submitted from a pool of 55 nominees.
“Kristal Bryant is a retailer of the year EVERY year to her customers, her 11 employees and the greater Birmingham metro area,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown.
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,300 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.