Home Away From Home

Laura Ingalls Wilder once said, “Home is the nicest word there is.” Sisters Joy Billson and Jill Averitt took that sentiment to heart. “As children, we always referred to our homes by the color. Over the years, we’ve lived in the White House, the Rock House, the Yellow House—but our favorite home of all was the Blue House.” The girls’ dad built the Blue House when Joy was 10 and Jill, 8 years old. “We weren’t in the Blue House for too long before losing it to a house fire, but we made many special memories in that home,” recalls Joy. When discussing the name for their new bakery and café, it seemed appropriate to name it after the place where Joy discovered her love for baking. 

At a young age, Joy would ask her mom to buy the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies, and 35 years later Joy is still making this special recipe for customers and friends who come into the bakery. The chocolate chip cookie is one of the favorites at the Blue House Bakery & Café, but everything on the menu is literally made with love. “Our menu is made up of dishes our mother or grandmother made for us as children that we now make for our children. We even have employees and friends who share family recipes that we add periodically. Blue House is one big family, and our hope is that our customers will walk through the doors and feel that, as well,” says Joy. 

Blue House menu options include everything from specialty salads such as the Cheeseburger Salad and sandwiches like the Cashew Chicken Salad to Quiche of the Day, House Plates, and Kiddo Meals designed to please the pickiest of palates. Their breakfast menu is just as delicious with The Perfect Pancakes, Breakfast Burrito, and let’s not forget the Big Man’s Breakfast Plate! All of these dishes are popular with the regulars, but Joy will tell you her specialty is cinnamon rolls and blueberry scones. “Those are only served on the weekend and I can’t ever seem to make enough!” 

The uniqueness of Blue House Bakery & Café lies in its family atmosphere that extends beyond actual family members who work there to customers whom they now call friends. “Saline County has embraced us from day one. They’re not just our customers, they’re now friends who feel more like family,” says Joy. 

In addition to being a restaurant owner, Joy, who has lived in Saline County for 20 years, is a pastor’s wife to Gerry and mother to Tyler, Cody and Pryce. She also has two bonus daughters, Jordan and Bethany. Her youngest son, Pryce and daughter-in-law, Bethany both work alongside her at the bakery. Joy and Jill’s mom, affectionately called Granny, moved to Saline County in 2019 to help with the bakery. She comes in every morning to bake biscuits and other baked goods for the day. “It’s really special to have our mom at the bakery every day. It’s truly a family affair!”

Jill, who currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, is a wife, mom, homeschool teacher and  restaurant owner. She’s wife to Alex, and mom to Amelia Joy and Sydney Faith. Her daughters are the exact ages she and Joy were when they moved into the original Blue House, and it’s safe to say, her girls have a love for being in the kitchen just like their mom and Aunt Joy. “They love making trips to Arkansas and spending time at the bakery. I can’t wait for the day I can move back home, working side-by-side with Joy,” says Jill.

Everything Jill knows about cooking or baking, she learned from Joy. Joy taught her the true meaning of hospitality and serving others through sharing a meal. “There’s just something about the making of a meal for others to enjoy. Being in the kitchen is therapeutic. It’s our happy place,” says Joy.

Joy and Jill will tell you they have felt supported and encouraged through a tough first year. “October 23rd will be our one-year anniversary. There’s absolutely no way we could’ve made it through this first year without [the customers’] love, support, and prayers. We chose to open a restaurant with zero restaurant experience, so to say they’ve been incredibly patient and gracious is an understatement. We’ve also received incredible support from other local restaurant owners. The sweet reception we’ve received is a testament to just how incredible this community is. There’s no other place we’d rather be than Saline County!”

For more information including menu items, daily dessert specials and links to other local restaurants, visit Blue House Bakery & Café at @BlueHouseBakeryBryantAR. And Happy Belated Birthday, Zella!