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Editor's Note: This story is unlocked for everyone to read courtesy of the CRVA, our partner in nourishing culinary exploration for residents and visitors of the Queen City.

December 21, 2023

Oprah loves these Charlotte biscuits

Hamilton Cornerstore’s mixes and cast iron were featured on Oprahs’s favorites this holiday season

By Ebony L. Morman

Hamilton Cornerstore’s biscuit mix was one of several items featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things. Photo by Jonathan Cooper

Chef April Robinson has already experienced a bit of magic this holiday season thanks to her and singer Anthony Hamilton’s business, Hamilton Cornerstore, being featured in this year’s Oprah’s My Favorite Things. “Being featured in that is magical,” says the South Carolina native.

While Robinson and Hamilton have three products on Oprah’s 2023 list — Honey Cornbread, Southern Line Biscuits, and a Signature Embossed 10 inch Cast Iron Skillet — it all came about by chance.

“I was doing an event in New York and one of [Oprah’s] team members came by, tried our product, and wanted to take it back to her to try,” says Robinson. “It kind of went from there. They loved the product, she loved it, and then they selected those three items.”

Chef April Robinson and her husband, Anthony Hamilton. Photo by Jonathan Cooper

Since receiving the honor, the store has experienced growth in sales and Robinson admits it has been a feat fulfilling orders and keeping up with increased demand of the products, which are mostly inspired by the partners’ family memories. Fueled by the nostalgia that comes from remembering her childhood with grandparents and aunties, Robinson pitched the idea for Hamilton Cornerstore — which offers spices, sauces, and other pantry staples — to Hamilton in 2021 and launched that November. Getting their start in the midst of COVID-19 was one of the reasons for choosing an e-commerce model to start.

Currently, the store operates out of a small space in Charlotte where products are mixed, packaged, and stored. Their hope is to convert into a larger warehouse with a front space that offers some retail, Robinson says.

The Johnson & Wales Charleston graduate’s previous culinary experience has been an asset to the store. After completing culinary school and taking some time off, she opened a cupcake shop there in 2012 that was, after three years, reimagined into Butter Tapas, a sit-down tapas restaurant in North Charleston. Robinson returned to Charlotte as a private chef after Butter Tapas closed in 2017.

Robinson’s perseverance throughout the years has been a pivotal part of her success in the culinary industry. These days, she spends time doing everything from graphics and social media to shipping and recipe development for the business.

When it comes to deciding between products, it boils down to a mix between suggestions from customers, whatever the partners dream up, and food they enjoyed while growing up. “It just goes back to kind of a nostalgia of our upbringing,” Robinson says. “The goal is to pretty much take over your pantry with any product that’s in there now that should have a Hamilton Cornerstore label on it.”

Having grits as the launch product was a no-brainer because it’s one of those staple ingredients that both Robinson and Hamilton, who grew up here, remember having in the past and still consume in the present. Because the business partners have different preferences, the store currently offers two types of grits: white quick grits, which are ground finely from white corn, and old-fashioned white grits, which are coarse in texture.

“I favor old-fashioned grits, where he favors quick grits,” says Robinson. “So whenever I’m playing with flavors, I draw from how I grew up eating it and how he grew up eating it and usually just kind of combine those two to make a Hamilton Cornerstore product.”

The same idea is true for the cornbread bundle, which offers traditional, Southern-style, and honey cornbread. Developing more than one option allows Robinson to utilize skills she learned in culinary school and in restaurant ownership. The process also provides her with an opportunity to put a pin on her own recipes.

Outside of expanding their production space, future plans for the business partners include hosting the Hamilton Cornerstore Family Reunion in Charlotte in 2024. It will be open to the public and visitors can expect food, family, and fun at their version of a family reunion.

Shop the store’s website or check out their bundle of Oprah’s favorites on Amazon.

Disclosure: The links above may be affiliate links, which means Unpretentious Palate earns a small commission on any sales of the items above. 

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