If You Bake It, They Will Come: Hippie Chick Granola bringing love and a bit of crunch to Oak Island

Walking into Hippie Chick Granola my sense of smell was
immediately brought to life with the enticing aroma of what my mind formed to be warm, buttery deliciousness – I knew I was in the right place.

My gaze was escorted to the rows of bags filled with granola and I quickly came out of my heavenly trance when I heard a comforting voice coming from the back of the store. “Hi there! I’ll be just a minute, make yourself at home,” said Ilene Evans, owner of Hippie Chick Granola in Oak Island as she welcomed me into her workshop. Coming around the corner from where I assumed all the magic happened, stepped out a woman of small stature with the biggest smile. She wore a white apron with a black and white designed bandanna around the top of her head – I knew I wanted to be friends with this person (and eat her granola).
“The word ‘hippie’ has so many connotations,” Evans said when we talked about the inspiration for the name. “When applied to the name of the company, I wanted to convey a sense of free spiritedness and share the ideology that as a business, we’re not afraid to go against convention.” Evans began baking granola some years back and it became a staple in her house just like bread and milk. Friends and family would come over and after the initial greeting at the door, the first words out of their mouth would be “where’s the granola?” Evolving into her goto gift for birthdays and her children’s teachers, Evans began toying with the idea of one day selling the granola. “In 2012 I found myself in a real money bind and long story short, I began to sell my granola to help supplement my income. When I moved from the Jersey Shore to Oak Island in 2013, my customer base in New Jersey told me that if I shipped the granola, they would keep ordering it from me. Their promise inspired me to take the leap of faith to open the bakery.” Evans desired a better quality of life for her children so they packed up their belongings and stayed at a friend’s house for a few months on the island. It did not take long for them to realize that not only did they want to stay here but that they should be here. With this month’s issue being Southport Magazine’s holistic issue, I asked the question I knew would be on a few of the reader’s minds – is the granola healthy? Although Evans makes no claims that her granola is a “health food” she does remind me that it is a wholesome alternative to other processed “snacks” out there in our supermarkets. “If you look at the prominent ingredients in the flavor blends which includes: rolled oats, grade B dark amber maple syrup, brown rice flour, olive oil, dried fruit, and nuts, you would probably agree that it’s a healthier option than other prepackaged snack choices,” said Evans. There was no way I could walk into her store and not buy a bag for myself so I went with Tamara’s blend which is chocolate pretzel granola and I am not even ashamed to say that the contents in the bag did not make it the rest of the day.
“What makes granola so fun and fascinating for me is that as a food, it’s a wide open canvas for exploration,” said Evans. “I’ve created some traditional varieties such as cranberry almond, but I have also created decadent and surprising varieties as well such as the peanut brittle and chocolate pretzel granola.” Some of Evans’ favorite recipes include Theresa’s Blend which is chocolate espresso granola with almonds and coconut and she admits to eating a lot of Kimberly’s blend which is ginger granola with pecans and cherries. “I’m a texture person and I love the chewiness of the crystallized ginger that you get in conjunction with the crunch of the granola,” said Evans when describing Kimberly’s blend. She truly loves all of the recipes and would not put anything on her shelves that she did not feel 100% enthusiastic about.

When it comes to being lucky, that award goes to Evans’ children who are her honorary taste-testers by birth for new flavor possibilities. “My kids are my product development team,” said Evans. “There is a lot of experimentation behind the scenes, so quite often, they will try a flavor at home that is never offered to the public, or that goes through dozens of variations before I get the recipe where I want it to be when I add it to the product line.”

With a world where so many people are developing food allergies every day, Hippie Chick Granola tries to offer a safer environment for its customers. Evans has worked with consumers where she has left out certain ingredients for them that cause allergic reactions. She does add though that all of the granola is made on the same equipment, so even if she eliminates an allergen from a batch, there is always a risk of contamination.

So what is the process of making granola you ask? All of Hippie Chick Granola is hand-made by Evans at her store on Oak Island. “The prep time varies depending on the flavor, and has to bake for 20 – 25 minutes,” Evans explains. “Both precision and consistency are crucial to producing good granola. There is no room for error in the measurement of ingredients, in the cook time, or even in how I spread the batter onto the sheet pans.” Even for recipes that she could make in her sleep, every so often Evans will double check her measuring tools or ingredients sheets just to make sure she has it right.

Evans’ primary objective with her granola baking is that each person who walks through her door has the best experience possible. “If you come to the bakery, I want you to leave happier than when you walked in,” said Evans who is quite possibly one of the happiest people you will ever meet. She also wants her customers to know that you are a part of a story – her and her children’s story – and what they are creating. She even goes so far as to make specific granola batches personal and meaningful. “I listen to every single suggestion that a customer makes to me, said Evans. She developed the tropical fruit granola when a friend suggested trying a blend with dried pineapple and coconut – the chocolate espresso granola was born the same way. But Evans wants to make an even bigger impact on the idea of being “in it together” that goes way beyond the creation of granola flavors and blends. “Customers share pieces of their lives with me every single day,” said Evans (myself included). “A customer on the west coast had me ship granola to her cousins for Christmas after they discovered Hippie Chick Granola during their family reunion on Oak Island last summer. She wanted it to remind them of the good memories they made from their visit.”
Hippie Chick Granola has provided its products for wedding brunches, baby showers and even as care packages sent to college students from parents, aunts and uncles. “People give and share food as a way of expressing love and building community,” said Evans. “I am constantly humbled by being a part of my customer’s lives in this way”

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