Sisters Kala Smith and Shalina Burlak grew up in St. Charles Parish and knew they wanted to open a business there.
“We always wanted to own something together,” Burlak said. “So we thought about a party business and we were working on that for years but decided against it. Then we thought of a place with different types of fries.”
None of their ideas stuck. Then in Feb. 2019 they decided to ask about a vacant building at 101 Saint Rose Avenue, and their dreams of entrepreneurship finally started to take shape – in the form of snowballs.
“That building was vacant and abandoned for five years,” Burlak said. “And we said, ‘Well let’s just ask about this.’ We worked on it from February to August. It was the most challenging thing I’ve gone through. When we finally opened, we were excited and happy … it was such an accomplishment after all that work.”
Sweet Magnolia opened in August of 2019 for the tail end of that summer snowball season. The sisters felt poised and ready for 2020, but the pandemic handed them a less than ideal spring and summer selling season.
Even still, they were able to remain open, which Burlak said they were grateful for.
“We feel good about this year,” Burlak said about 2021. “Last season we had our faithful customers who would come every day, and now with the vaccine people are venturing out more.”
The duo grew up in, and today reside in, St. Rose. Smith said it’s a dream come true to open a business there.
“It’s kind of surreal, because we grew up here,” she said. “When I drive by and see it, I still think, ‘Oh my God, this is mine. It’s so amazing to have something in the community and something that contributes to it. I love that this will be part of some kids’ childhood summer memories … coming to our snowball stand.”
“We are really proud of our fresh products and the quality of the products,” she said. “We make the puree for our strawberry snowballs from fresh strawberries, and we don’t use any preservatives. Nothing stays in the fridge longer than a couple days.”
This summer the sisters will take a stab at introducing Sweet Magnolia patrons to Korean street waffles and will also expand food offerings to include chicken and waffles.
Through it all – the struggles of wading through licenses and paperwork to the unknowns of owning a small business during a pandemic – Burlak and Smith said all of the hard work has been worth it.
“We’re able to be a team and we’re able to do something together,” Burlak said. “I’m glad that I’m able to do this with my family.”
Sweet Magnolia, located at 101 Saint Rose Avenue in St. Rose, is now open for the 2021 season. Hours of operation are Monday-Saturday from 1-7 p.m. and Sunday from 1-6 p.m.