PICAYUNE (WDAM) - Mobile is known as the home of Mardi Gras, but Picayune is known as the home of the original fruit and cream cheese filled king cakes.
Paul's Pastry Shop started in 1970 in a 100-square foot bakery in Picayune. In 1972, the shop started selling king cakes with a twist.
"We didn't really know much about king cakes because we we're from California," said Sherri Thigpen, the current owner. "We came up with our own family recipe and ways to fill the king cakes."
The bakery is family owned and operated. Thigpen bought the business from her parents in 1988. Today, there are 53 Paul's Pastry Shop locations and four generations that have worked at the bakery. Her son-in-laws are production managers and her daughter is the office manager at the Picayune location. Three of Thigpen's grandchildren also work at the shop.
"They are starting just where we did," said Thigpen. "They are washing dishes, labeling pans and doing things like that for us."
Paul's offers over 40 king cake flavors, including the choice to create your own combination. In 2016, the bakery sold over 65,000 king cakes, and this year they expect to sell 75,000. They have customers all over the country.
Last year, a woman from New York ordered a king cake from Paul's. Thigpen included a card asking the customer to stop by if they ever visited Mississippi. Two months later, the customer came in and met Thigpen.
Another customer from Alabama stopped at Paul's after a trip to New Orleans.
"I wasn't going to go anywhere but Paul's," said Marsha Bass. "This is where you have to stop. This is the place."
2017 is Paul's 47th year in business.
"I didn't know it would be where it is today," said Thigpen. "I knew it was growing, and we had to stay with it."
Paul's Pastry Shop king cakes are available at Corner Market, Maters and Taters and Shady Acres. You can find more locations here.