When Dardanella “Dardie” Powell enters a room, people notice. Powell commands attention not only because she’s often carrying a basket of her unbelievably smooth, creamy pecan pralines, but also because she’s likely to be decked out in a giant, sparkling crown and a gold jacket emblazoned with her title: “Queen of Pralines.” If you’ve attended the Shreveport Farmers’ Market (returning June 1) or the Texas Avenue Makers Fair (returning this Saturday, April 27), you’ve likely seen the Queen at work. The story of how this homemaker with a master’s degree in special education re-invented herself as the Queen of Pralines is as rich and unforgettable as one of her premium pralines. I sat down with Ms. Powell to discuss what it takes to be the Queen.
A quick note: Because of Ms. Powell’s irrepressible enthusiasm for making and selling pralines, I’ve condensed and excerpted our conversation.
On Her Early Life in New Orleans:
“I’m originally from the 7th Ward, in New Orleans. My parents were entrepreneurs. We lived in a house with a corner grocery store attached. I was a girl scout for many years, which taught me about entrepreneurship, as well. That cookie sale is more than just selling cookies!”
On Her Pralines and What Makes Them Special:
“I don’t use generic anything. That’s Land o’ Lakes in my pralines. I don’t use Great Value. I charge a luxury price ($3.50-$5 each), but that’s because you’re getting a luxury product. I don’t use preservatives, which many praline makers do. I want to give people the opportunity to have a fresh praline.”
On Wearing the Crown:
“When I first started wearing the crown, people would laugh at me. But entrepreneurs are not afraid to do what the average person won’t do. The first time I wore that crown was to an 8 a.m. workshop at LSUS. They had 200 people in the room. And I walked in with that crown on my head.”
Dardie’s Pralines may be ordered by the dozen by contacting Powell at (318) 517-7433 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Powell only sells individual pralines at festivals and events. Her next event will be the Texas Avenue Makers Fair, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, April 27 in the 800 block of Texas Avenue (near the intersection of Texas Avenue and Common Street). Dardie’s Pralines will be at Booth #106.
You can learn about several other “makers” who’ll be selling their creations at the Spring 2013 Texas Avenue Makers Fair in this article from The Times.