When Griffen Wall graduated from St. Agnes Academy and went to the University of Colorado, she had every intention of becoming an architect.
"I got into architecture school and was there for two years when I realized I was not cut out to be an architect," Wall says. "I was really bummed out about it. I would come home and to get the stress and tension out, I would cook and bake for [my friends]. It's like therapy for me. Then it occurred to me: Why not make a career out of this?"
So Wall decided to attend Culinary School of the Rockies instead, earning her professional certification as a pastry chef. When she moved back to Memphis, Wall was looking for more work experience in hopes of opening her own bakery. She applied for jobs at various local coffee shops until David Adams, owner of Bluff City Coffee on South Main, discovered her passion for pastries.
When Bluff City Coffee opened in 2006, the baked goods were almost exclusively purchased wholesale — pre-made by other companies and baked in-store. Adams is on a mission to change all that.
"Dave wanted to start everything from scratch and eventually expand into a full bakery," Wall says. "I came in to help him do that."
With Wall's baking expertise and Adams' business sense, the two have begun to change over the menu from wholesale products to homemade items, one recipe at a time.
"Dave and I collaborate quite a bit," Wall says. "I have my recipes that I like to play around with, but if he finds something he's interested in, I'll go in the kitchen and test the recipe and say, 'Oh, this isn't going to work for this reason' or 'We can fix it this way.'"
One such recipe is the "duffin," something Adams brought to Wall's attention a few months ago. His wife had heard about a donut-muffin combination, and Adams wanted Wall to create the mysterious hybrid for their customers.
"It's one of those things that people aren't sure about until they've tried it. It's got a neat flavor. It reminds me of cornbread in a weird way, but definitely more of a dessert," Wall says. The duffin is almost like an old-fashioned cake doughnut and comes in cinnamon sugar and glazed. But like any truly mystical foodie creation, this elusive crossbreed is available At Bluff City Coffee only on the weekends.
During the week, you will find muffins, scones, cookies, granola bars, danishes, turnovers, yogurt rolls, and sandwich breads — each made according to Wall's recipes, and each recipe a work in progress. For instance, Wall is currently focused on providing some gluten-free options for patrons with wheat allergies.
"There's not a lot of places that sell these kinds of breakfast pastries in Memphis," Wall says. "It's neat because more and more people are hearing about us, people from Collierville and Cordova who come all the way in here to get coffee and a pastry. We're kind of out of the way, so we depend on word of mouth and our regulars."
Adams and Wall are planning to open a second location for Bluff City Coffee, one with a full bakery that will supply the South Main store. Wall hopes to have something open within the next year, but there is still much to do.
Regardless of the progress of that second store, rest assured Wall will be baking.
"This is the first thing that I've ever felt like I could do for a living. It's obviously not about making money because there's not much money in it. This sounds cheesy, but I just love to nourish people, give them something that makes them feel good."