Business is blooming for Wildflours, a café in Ratcliff run by Kaylie Cole.
The oldest of seven girls, Kaylie learned how to cook at a young age. She said her mom has taught her everything she knows about cooking.
“A lot of the times, my sisters and I would cook a whole dinner by ourselves; we loved it,” Kaylie said. “Now it’s my job every single day, and it’s so fun to be able to cook for people and try new things and learn new things every day.”
In the summer of 2015, Kaylie was a server at a Lufkin restaurant, working double shifts six days a week. She knew that wasn’t the kind of life she wanted, Kaylie said, so she “took a big leap and quit.”
After a while of not being employed, she decided to grow a summer garden, something her parents did every summer when she was growing up. Her great uncle let her use his property in Wells, and they planted four 300-foot rows of potatoes, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, corn, eggplant, okra, squash, zucchini and cucumbers, and 16 rows of purple hull peas.
She woke up before daylight every morning, drove to Wells and started harvesting. She shelled and sold the peas, selling out almost every day, and let some of the locals stop by and pick from the rest of the vegetables.
At the end of the summer, she decided to start catering homemade lunches for anyone who was interested, and she named the business Wildflours.
“It was always an idea I had, and I’ve always loved cooking new things,” Kaylie said. “So with $100 to my name, I went and bought groceries. With the help of my mom, we would get a menu together every week and we would post it on Facebook. The more I posted, the more orders I started getting.”
Soon, she was catering for people all over Lufkin, eventually preparing an order of 75 lunches for the Georgia Pacific office. The business was outgrowing the Coles’ little kitchen, and a friend of the family offered to let Kaylie lease a vacant restaurant he owned down the road from the Coles’ house. Wildflours opened its doors in October 2015 and became a sit-down restaurant, continuing to cater for large events.
At the time, the building was “nothing but chipboard walls” with no personality, Kaylie said. So she and her mother gave the place a makeover, transforming it to a “vintage farmhouse” style with pops of color and a sense of fun.
“For as long as I can remember, we have always gone to flea markets and thrift stores. That’s my mom’s favorite thing to do, and now it’s mine, as well,” Kaylie said. “I want people to be in a fun atmosphere and walk around and look at the restaurant and take pictures and tell their friends all about it. You can go to a normal, modern restaurant all day long. I want to stand out and stand apart from all that. I want people to smile every time they come in and feel right at home.”
As the business has grown, so has the menu. Kaylie said she initially stuck to home-style meals, but she has gradually added items like burgers, chicken-fried steak, salads and more. The chicken-fried steak and the “Hunk of Burning Love” spicy burger have become customer favorites.
Another menu item Kaylie has added are “Crazy Shakes” — milkshakes topped to almost twice their height with any confection imaginable: Cool Whip, chocolate and caramel sauce, toffee bits, Twix bars, and even a whole slice of pie or chocolate cake. “You can get an ordinary shake just about anywhere, but the shakes at Wildflours are far from ordinary,” Kaylie said. “I think most of them are created off of my crazy cravings for sweet treats. And I think the crazier, the better. There is no such thing as too much of anything, or too over the top.”
Although she loves sticking to a good recipe, Kaylie said, she also loves “experimenting and adding new and fun things.”
“Over time our menu has evolved and will continue to evolve the longer we’re open,” she said. “One thing we never stray from is fresh foods. Just about everything on our menu is made from scratch and it’s hand-battered fresh to order.”