Long before the sun is up most Friday mornings, the kitchen windows at Christa and Tyson Lee’s home are ablaze with light. Fridays are baking days. The Starkville couple often rises at 4:30 a.m. Soon after, the house is redolent with the tantalizing aroma of the cinnamon rolls their home-based LoveLee Rolls has quickly become known for.
The new cottage industry was inspired by a pair of serendipitous incidents. Both occurred during a Fourth of July trip to the beach this past summer. First, an old friend declared that Christa’s cinnamon rolls she used to make back in college were still the best he’d ever had; and then an acquaintance called her cell phone offering to pay Christa to make a batch. On the road trip home, the idea of LoveLee Rolls took hold.
Christa’s love of cooking developed during her student days at Mississippi State University several years ago. On a typical student budget that didn’t allow for eating out every day, and eager for “more than Ramen Noodles and Hamburger Helper,” she set out to learn how. The Mathiston native discovered a sincere enjoyment — not only in preparing dishes herself, but in the joy and fellowship that came when friends shared them.
A driving force behind LoveLee Rolls is a desire to “flourish in your gifts.”
“She enjoys cooking, and I enjoy people; it’s a way for us to serve people,” said Tyson, who was quarterback of the MSU Bulldogs in 2008 and 2009. The Columbus native was a standout player for Columbus High School and Itawamba Junior College before his college gridiron career.
Christa and Tyson first met while attending MSU. It was some time after graduation and Tyson’s graduate schooling, however, before a casual friendship became something more. Tyson is now one of the pastors of Redeemer Church in Starkville. The Lees are busy, too, raising their 14-month-old son, Zeke, and preparing for their second child, due to arrive in April.
Cinnamon rolls allow Christa the opportunity to do something she thoroughly enjoys, while providing the flexibility to be at home to parent.
While Friday is the Lee’s designated baking day, the process actually begins on Thursday. That’s when Christa makes enough homemade dough for the number of orders received via email through Wednesday of that week. Orders for regular and mini cinnamon rolls come from individuals and businesses, wedding shower hostesses and doctors’ offices, realtors and tailgaters.
“Usually I make the dough about mid-afternoon on Thursday — and then the transformation from family kitchen to bakery begins,” Christa laughed. Counters are cleared, folding tables come out, and Christa’s handy cart is rolled in.
“That is the official start of the baking weekend,” she pronounced.
Tyson is an integral part of the process. Friday mornings find him buttering pans while Christa starts rolling out dough. Husband and wife collaborate to produce the melt-in-your-mouth rolls that come six regular rolls to a pan for $7.50, or 24 mini rolls per pan for $10.
When baking is done, customers begin arriving to pick up orders. Tyson delivers orders in Columbus to a designated pick-up location.
Setting aside a specific baking day allows the couple to control the pace and growth of this new enterprise and still leave plenty of time for focus on family. One of the most important things they have learned in the first eight months is patience, said Tyson.
When working side by side, the Lees are surrounded in the cozy kitchen by alphabet letters on the wall, each with a Bible scripture on the back that begins with that letter.
“Those are our memory verses; we do a letter every week,” Christa said, explaining their emphasis on spending time as a family around the table.
“We sit at the dinner table, and we’ll talk about the verse that week,” Christa continued. “Zeke is only 14 months old now, but we’re trying to start habits that will be beneficial to him as he gets older.”
Visitors to the kitchen will also notice hanging placards about love, joy and other essentials most of us strive for.
Tyson said, “It’s a reminder of what we hope to be as a husband, wife, dad and mom, and as people come into our home, whether they’re friends or customers.”
They view LoveLee Rolls as a way of combining their gifts to please, serve and interact with others.
“Food is such a common denominator. We just have so many great life experiences and fellowship around the table,” Christa said. “Maybe we can encourage others to gather around the table and provide that in something even as simple as cinnamon rolls.”
Editor’s note: Learn more at loveleerolls.com. Email LoveLeeRolls@gmail.com, or follow them on Facebook.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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