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Second act: Cullman bakery is leap of faith for couple

Turn left off I-65 south from Cullman, and The Sunflour Bakery and Eatery appears like a mirage so good it just might make you forget the billboards you passed proclaiming homemade meals and humble country times.

A yellow house with a long front porch welcomes diners to the restaurant, which is open for breakfast and lunch. It will be tempting to stop and try out the turquoise-painted rockers, but resist, there’s time for that later. Besides, you don’t want to risk the cinnamon orange rolls selling out. They did on a recent morning, at 10 a.m.

A wooden sign reading “Mustard Seed Nursery” welcomes you inside. Don’t worry, you’re at the right place. Sunflour shares this historic home with a local plant nursery, and both businesses rely on faith to make it through the grueling tasks of being their own bosses. It is faith, after all, that got Amanda and Brad Quattlebaum out of their former day jobs and into the kitchen.

Amanda worked as a surgical nurse, and Brad drove a cement truck. They had no experience in the food industry, but imagined running a small wedding venue one day. Then, the couple had a decision to make. 

The Philly Cheese Steak sandwich is one of the lunch menu’s popular items. Courtesy Sunflour Bakery

“We had an opportunity three years ago and we went for it,” Amanda says.

The New Testament verse, Romans 12:12, adorns many surfaces including a ceiling beam: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.”

Worn, painted white furniture and turquoise walls hide behind a sign advertising the Sunday lunch special: meatloaf, chicken casserole, green beans and corn. Another sign beckons you to get on with your meal: “Life is short. Eat dessert first.”

Amanda made cakes at home as a hobby, and friends and customers told her for years she should go into her own business. She and Brad started renting just the kitchen — the house had hosted two other restaurants — but demand led her to expand through the building in September. At first, making a new restaurant in an old building, even one that already had a kitchen, proved challenging.

“Nothing is level or square in the place,” Amanda says.

The couple was surprised to find horsehair plaster walls when tearing down the drive-thru window.

Brad Quattlebaum, a former cement truck driver, and his wife, Amanda Quattlebaum, left their day jobs and took a leap of faith to open their restaurant. It proved to be a wise decision. Photo by Jennifer Crossley Howard

“It’s probably better than drywall today,” Brad says.

Sunflour, a customer of Cullman EC, has six employees, and a few carried cakes to cars for customers on a recent winter morning. Regulars come from as far as Nashville and as close as down the street in Cullman. Many go for cheeseburgers, patty melts and Philly cheesesteaks for lunch. Sunflour also serves a full breakfast.

The greatest joy of the Quattlebaums’ second act as restaurant owners is not the food.

“Getting to know customers is the best,” Amanda says. “We want you to feel like you’re at home or at your grandmother’s house.”

In five years or so, the Quattlebaums envision a second store in Cullman. So far, word of mouth and reviews from Yelp and Facebook and Instagram pages are enough to keep tables full.

But what looks like a cook’s shabby chic heaven requires more work than sleep.

“We never dreamed it would be so hard,” Brad says. His wife agrees. The couple typically works 16-hour days, seven days a week.

“He’s always said we’re married to this place,” she says. “This is our life right now.”