‘Sister’: I’m gonna be watching you

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 30, 2015

Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes shared the Cinderella story of how she grew her company, and encouraged local business owners to seek the help they need to grow their own businesses.



Barnes, the founder of Sister Schubert’s Rolls, was the keynote speaker for Thursday night’s Chamber of Commerce banquet. The banquet’s theme was “homegrown excellence.”

“I love the theme of this banquet,” Barnes said. “I’ve been in Andalusia for over 18 years now. This city and community supports not just the largest, but also the smallest of all these businesses. The mayor, council, chamber of commerce do anything and everything to help a business, even if you want to start a new one.

“That would be me over 25 years ago,” she said. “They often say mine is a Cinderella story in the grocery business.”

Barnes said ever since she was old enough to “climb up on a stool and hold a spoon,” she has loved being in the kitchen. She learned to cook from family members, she said, adding that her one grandmother, Leona Henderson Wood, taught her to make rolls when she was 12.

“From then on, it was my job to make those for all of our family gatherings,” she said.

“When we are born, God has a plan for our lives,” Barnes, who opened her speech with a prayer, said. “My father and his father were entrepreneurs.”

They owned Wood Furniture Co. in downtown Troy, where Barnes dusted and decorated as a teen. After studying interior design at Auburn, who became a designer for the store.

“But cooking and baking have always been my greatest passions, she said. “I’m always happiest in the kitchen.”

In 1989, in addition to her work as an interior designer, she added “a little bitty catering business on the side.” Her homemade rolls were always requested.

That same year, she was asked to donate some of her homemade rolls to the church’s frozen food fair. She’d never frozen them before, but she tried it and it worked. The next year, they took orders for the fair, and she baked 200 pans of rolls, and 300 pans the year after that.

“I thought if people like the this much, maybe they’d sell in other places, too,” she said.

Barnes said her two partners in business and live have been God, and her husband, George.

“ I made a promise to God if he would help me start this little roll business and take care of me and my two little girls, I would help feed hungry children in world.”

She met the man who would become her husband, George Barnes, when it was suggested she needed a food broker for her rolls. He got her an appointment with Winn Dixie, and she soon had an order for 1,000 cases.

“George managed to expand from a few to major chains to all over Southeast,” she said. “He soon became my own better half when we were married in 1995.”

The growth called for a larger facility, so they built a new one in Luverne, with lots of help from many agencies, she said.

“It was a huge risk,” said, adding “Little did I know that with the growth of our bakery, we could become the largest employer in Luverne.”

The rolls attracted attention from very large corporations At first, she said, she wasn’t interested in selling.

“George convinced me it wasn’t smart to at least see what they had to say,” she said.

In 2011, the Barnes sold their stock to Lancaster Colony of Columbus, Ohio.

“They had the resources to propel to our brand to national status,” she said. “And they had a history of buying family-run companies, then asking families to run those.”

Barnes stills works as spokesperson and in research and development; George Barnes retired last month.

The couple also founded the Barnes Family Foundation as a way to give back, and, among other projects, founded Sasha’s Home in Ukraine for families who foster children.

“We are blessed to live in such a wonderful place where everyone is willing to help you,” Barnes said. “The hardest part for her, she said, was believing in herself.

“Tonight, I ask all of you, what is the next step for you and your business?” she said. “I’m like the soup lady on TV. I’m gonna be watching you.”