Drivers are concerned about two things as they approach Calvert, Texas. The first is the speed trap within a mile of the city limits. Second, the mid-town traffic light, which seems to favor red. Frequent travelers on Highway 6 can be lulled as they pass decrepit barns, dry cotton fields, and rusted gates. Unless shopping for western-style furniture, decorative art, or rare antiques are on your list, it’s easy to drift through this four-block town without blinking. But that would be a mistake.
Based on many trips through Calvert, I’ve learned to appreciate the temperament of the town and discovered a woman on a mission, Jody Powell, known as the “Crazy Kolache Dancing Lady” and owner of Zamykal Kolaches.
Last weekend’s trip was especially jolting when my husband woke me saying, “The kolache lady is dancing in the street.” “Oh sure,” I said, with my eyes still closed. Nudged with a sharp elbow, “She is waving a towel in a circle and dancing… in the street!”
To my surprise, she was joyfully jigging around and singing. I suggested that we turn around to take pictures.
“What are you doing?” I asked the dancing woman. “Selling kolaches, I have only 21 left,” she asserted. “I’ll make you a deal if you’re interested.” During our short conversation, she continued to move zestfully as I stood frozen in amazement. “I’m ready for bed. Do you want to buy some kolaches?” It was 4:00pm.
Jody opens her doors for business at 7:30am, but her day starts much earlier. At 12:30am, she begins the long, tedious process preparing her Grandmother Zamykal’s recipe from Czechoslovakia. Long hours and hard work have paid off since 2007 after winning first place titles in three categories.
It’s no mystery why customers keep coming back. Although she offers thirty flavors, the traditional varieties are most popular. Some people ask for flavors that remind them of their own grandmother’s recipe, which almost always ends with tears. Jody comforts her reminiscent customers with a gentle pat on the back and reassuring gesture, whispering “It’s okay to taste the love.”
Each workday is 16 hours long and by 4:00pm, she’s ready to hit the sack. But if she still has inventory, she applies her favorite marketing technique—dancing and singing. Some days, she sells out within 15 minutes; the other days may take two hours. Besides walking her dogs in the mornings, dancing is the only cardio she gets all day. I call this a healthy marketing strategy for obvious reasons. Jody’s marketing plan worked even in the early days. In September 2004, she rented a small space for Zamykal’s Gourmet Kolaches. Just five months later she owned the building. Her flair for marketing produced an impressionable, lucrative business.
In a magazine article written in 1910, William Leshner wrote, “The spirit of Calvert’s citizens possesses the virtue of not only being ready to help each other but the extending of a warm welcome to stranger within the gates.”
Jody certainly has accomplished this in Calvert and now has her eyes set on the gates of Dallas.
The next time you are traveling on McKinney Avenue, Oak Lawn, or Greenville, look for an enthusiastic woman waving a white dish towel, dancing in circles, and singing. It just might be the next kolache baker offering a good deal on the day’s remaining pastries.