Pho Lang Thang
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Flora, Aunt Flora, Miss Flora, Mama Flora… whatever you choose to call her, she’ll answer to them all! After a few years away from being at the market full-time, Aunt Flora and her famous cobblers and cakes are back and here to stay.
As you may have guessed, Aunt Flora has made a name for herself in Cincinnati. Aunt Flora cannot go anywhere without people coming up to her to say hello or simply shoot the breeze. The fame is in her name. While she goes by Aunt Flora, the original Aunt Flora was her aunt, whom she is named after. Back in the 1940s, the Quaker Oats Company was looking for women to portray the fictional Aunt Jemima in real life. They went on a nation-wide search for the perfect woman to represent the brand, and who better to do that than Flora Saunders, the original Aunt Flora who was a cook and baker. When she wasn’t parading around the country in a Greyhound Bus portraying Aunt Jemima, she was spending time in the kitchen with her family, including one very special young lady and niece, present day Aunt Flora. When she was a kid, cooking with her famous aunt was merely for fun. Growing up, she never thought she’d be making a living off selling cobblers, pies and cakes.
Aunt Flora and her husband, Ron, have been married for 34 years and work side-by-side to run her business endeavors. You may recognize this friendly face cutting up with customers, serving as a source of entertainment around the market. Ron and Aunt Flora have seen some rough times together that have lead them to some amazing opportunities. In the late 90s, while Aunt Flora was recovering from a bout brought on by fibromyalgia, she spotted an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer advertising a pie tasting competition. Interested, she whipped up some cobblers for folks to taste and people went crazy over it!
“They said I had to list the recipe—there was no recipe. I knew what was in it but I couldn’t tell you how much. I just knew what to do.”
Aunt Flora and her famous cobblers gained much recognition thanks to the now-Vice Mayor and Cincinnati City Councilman, Christopher Smitherman, who encouraged her to relocate to Findlay Market from her Warsaw location.
“There was article after article written about my cobblers.”
She gained a local fanbase and opened up a stall inside of Findlay Market as one of the first African-American store owners.
“There was always a line that wrapped around the market on the weekends.”
Unfortunately, things haven’t always been peachy keen for Aunt Flora and her family. She and Ron faced some serious medical issues all at once. The medical bills piled up and Aunt Flora’s, sadly, had to shut their doors at the market.
“We lost everything we had.”
Having overcome these devastating circumstances, Aunt Flora and Ron bounced back once again and opened a restaurant in the Northgate Mall serving people fish, collard greens, sweet potatoes—soul food. Her father, nicknamed Mr. Poogie, was an Air Force veteran and fisherman. She uses his cornmeal recipe to batter and fry her fish.
Aunt Flora returned to the market as an outdoor vendor, as locals couldn’t miss out on her cobblers, pies, cakes and, of course, the good company of Miss Flora and Ron.
“I don’t know what it means to stop or quit. If I were to not be here tomorrow, I know that my name would be carried on through my children because I’ve learned to write everything down—recipes, notes, etc.”
Aunt Flora is a family-centered woman. She and her husband Ron have three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren who they spend much of their time with. Their oldest granddaughter and grandson would be the ones who would pick up the business where Aunt Flora and Ron left off.
Although God and family are first in her life, food is next in line. Aunt Flora has been working on some amazing, new products for her customers. A few years ago she partnered with a local barista who assisted her in creating a line of gourmet coffee that coordinates with the same flavors of her cobblers—cherry, peach, apple, etc. She also has a line of spice mixes and BBQ sauces.
“Hot & Spicy Kathleen is named after my mom. She was hot and spicy,” Aunt Flora teases.
Aunt Flora stands out from the rest. Her personality is like no other and has landed her on shows like The Martha Stewart Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her food stands out, too. Not only does she specialize in sweets, she also creates some amazing savory meat and vegetable pies. She is currently testing out ways to serve people fried pies.
“I use the same recipe as my Aunt Flora. My pies are really two pies. There is the crust, then a layer of filling, then another layer of crust and filling on top of that one.”
We are excited to have Aunt Flora at the Market; her presence here radiates! Come pay Miss Flora and Ron a visit in the roll-up doors next time you are at the market.