MOBILE – Jaclyn Robinson, founder and owner of Mobile-based Mo’Bay Beignet Co., has been named Alabama’s 2022 Gee Emerging Retailer of the Year. “I still have to pinch myself when I think about the success Mo’Bay Beignet Co. has seen in such a short period of time,” said Robinson.
“Less than three years after opening the doors to her first brick and mortar cafe in downtown Mobile, there are now seven cafes – a mix of corporately owned and franchised locations – plus two food trucks,” said Danette Richards, director of small business development for the Mobile Chamber, which nominated the entrepreneur.
“Mo’Bay is making Alabama sweeter, one city at a time,” said Robinson. “Being a light and source of joy in every community Mo’Bay enters is what it’s all about.”
The cafes sell beignets, syrups, coffees “and a whole lot of happiness,” said Robinson, who said she’s “more concerned with smiles per employee and happy customers per square foot” than conventional retail metrics.
Robinson began selling her beignet mix and syrups as a fundraiser to send her daughter to college. A day after plugging the fundraiser on social media, a local market contacted Robinson about selling her product at the market. Within a month, her products were in almost a dozen Alabama stores. “Many God winks and serendipitous events” later, Robinson opened her first brick-and-mortar location in downtown Mobile in February 2020. In 2021, new locations opened in March (Auburn) and November (west Mobile). So far in 2022, locations have opened in Orange Beach (June) and Tuscaloosa (July) with another planned for a fall opening in Saraland. There is one location outside Alabama: a Hattiesburg, Miss., franchise, which opened in April. This month, Mo’Bay Beignet Co. began selling during Auburn University home games inside Jordan Hare Stadium.
“I also created a sister company, Bay Town Burger Co., which operates in West Mobile alongside the Mo’Bay Beignet Co.,” Robinson said.
The Retailers of the Year judges marveled at Mo’Bay Beignet’s “100% word of mouth and social media” marketing. Robinson refers to her customers as “my volunteer marketing army.” The judges also noted that in less than three years, its corporate and franchise stores employ 125.
The Huntsville native, who has a communications degree, has been in Mobile since 2005. Her previous careers include marketing and business development for a healthcare staffing company, professional photography and team director for 500 volunteers at a Mobile church.
The Gee Emerging Retailer of the Year Award is named in memory of the late Morris “Mickey” Gee, a former Alabama Retail board member and University of Alabama at Birmingham professor. The award is given annually to an innovative and effective Alabama retailer who has been in business for at least two years, but less than five. Gee, who owned the Pants Store for more than 30 years, realized that the first five years are tough, but young businesses can have a huge impact.
“Jaclyn Robinson is a Retailer of the Year every year to the Mo’Bay Beignet Co. customers, its 125 employees and the Mobile, Auburn, Orange Beach, Tuscaloosa and Saraland communities,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown. Mo’Bay Beignet Co. has been an Alabama Retail Association member since its founding.
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.
Originally posted at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14