Kelly Ball, owner of Leila Bakery and Cafe, started selling her from-scratch baked goods at farmers markets in 2013 to much fanfare. Her pastry passion soon budded into a full-fledged business, and last fall, despite the pandemic, she opened her first storefront in East Dallas.
While her hand-pressed pie crusts would argue she was born to bake, this wasn’t the path she’d planned. Ball graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago then moved to North Texas with her then-husband after graduation with plans to start a family and career.
“Then, my world came crashing down around me,” Ball says. She suffered a miscarriage and her marriage unraveled. “All the shitty stuff happened in one year.”
Ball dove into Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a Christmas present from her father, and built new friendships. But, the most significant step was taking a job at the former Legal Grounds Coffee in East Dallas, perhaps temporarily at first, but soon she realized she loved the people and work. Despite her degree, she loved the connection she felt to people in the space of a coffee shop.
“I just try to accept things I can’t change, and allow myself to pursue things I love,” the 36-year-old now says.
So Ball began baking, eventually selling her goods at farmers markets, then to wholesalers, honing her from-scratch, hand-rolled crust for her quiches and pies. Then she started developing a croissant program to expand her product line to clients.
Now Ball's all-female kitchen staff has helped her stay focused on growing her business in meaningful ways. She attributes the success of her cafe to their strength and support. The East Dallas spot has quickly become a neighborhood favorite.
On a recent visit, the pastries and pies were all worth every gluttonous calorie. Ball is careful about the ingredients she uses, sticking to butter and shunning palm oil because of its negative effects on the environment. The purity comes through in clean, delightful bites.
A few weeks ago she opened a second location at Legacy Hall in Plano.
“It’s an extension, not a duplicate,” Ball is quick to point out.
Her East Dallas shop is surrounded by houses, and the Legacy Hall concept is bordered by a bevy of other eateries in a three-level food court of sorts. Shoppers won’t pop in for a morning treat or loaf of cinnamon bread (though they should). The northern location is more about offering an experience, something unique to the area. So Ball has tweaked her menu so it aligns with the larger concept while offering some of the staples, like quiches and pies, found at her store near Lakewood.
The signature item at the new spot is a cakelett; a custom creation in which customers choose the sponge, fillings (icing) and toppings. There are more than two dozen different items to pick from. Then, it’s all made right in front of you. It's the Build-A-Bear or Chipotle of small cakes.
She hasn't created an online ordering system for the Legacy Hall shop yet, explaining she wants to learn more about the space and clients before adding that option. This is something for which we should be grateful; meaningful steps in due time is something Ball has seemed to conquered quite well.
Leila Bakery and Cafe, 6041 Oram St. (East Dallas), 972-807-6297. Open for takeout 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Legacy Food Hall, 7800 Windrose Ave., Plano. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
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