A sweet pandemic enterprise

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Thursday, September 24th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: silver linings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought industries, like conventions and live performances, to a standstill. One couple in Nashville has taken a nasty situation and made it into something sweet. WORLD correspondent Vivian Jones brings us that story.

CHRISTIN: They are worth it. Yeah. Thank you so much. 

CORRESPONDENT, VIVIAN JONES: It’s pouring rain this morning in Mount Juliet—a suburb of Nashville. Even with the gully-washer, car after car pulls up to the Zito family driveway. 


They’re all here for the same thing: cinnamon rolls.


If you’ve ever tasted fresh sourdough cinnamon rolls from Rock-N-Rollz Nashville, you’d brave the rain, too. 


The pop-up bakery is a husband and wife team that crafts made-to-order cinnamon rolls every weekend. 

ZITO: I would never have thought in a million years we would be paying our bills and supporting other people from cinnamon rolls.

Zito—the man with only one name—is a career music production manager who’s worked around the world for musicians like OneRepublic and Ariana Grande. His wife, Christin, is a red carpet makeup and hair artist, and also runs a social media marketing business. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March and cancelled all music tours and events, both their careers came to a screeching halt. They had no idea how they were going to keep paying for their house.

ZITO: We made these cinnamon rolls for Easter Sunday for our little cheat meal. And we really liked them. 

CHRISTIN: These were literally the first cinnamon rolls we had ever made.

The rolls smell amazing. They’re bigger-than-your-fist: Flaky spirals of sourdough, laced with spicy cinnamon sugar, and slathered with a generous helping of salted buttercream icing. The perfect balance of salty, sweet, and sourdough twang. 

CHRISTIN: He just kept, you know, experimenting in the kitchen and having fun. I secretly made him a logo for his business and was like, here, try this!

It didn’t take long for the word to get out. 

ZITO: We made this little form and we post it online and all of a sudden, you know, I had 60 orders. The next weekend we sold 83. The third week, and we sold 250. And then it was 400. And then we’re like, oh, I think we have something you know with this. 

And it just keeps growing. These days, they make about 14-hundred rolls a weekend. 

ZITO: We use about 60 pounds of butter a week, and about we make 120 pounds of butter cream for every week. 

The business started out in the Zitos’ kitchen. Then, it moved to their garage with a borrowed industrial sized oven. Now, they book time at a restaurant incubator in town to use an industrial sized mixer, ovens, and baking equipment. 

From the beginning, the Zitos have made this about more than just themselves. The business also supports the music community. The bakery slogan is “buy a roll, save a roadie.” 

ZITO: We’re blessed. We have a good kitchen to work out of, and I said if we’re gonna do this, let’s donate right off the bat. And people have rallied behind that, because they’re not only supporting us, but they’re helping to support the community…

Fifty cents from every roll goes to a charity called MusiCares. It provides emergency financial support to people in the music industry during times of crisis. 

Skills from both their careers came into play as the business took off. Christin’s social media skills streamlined the process as the cinnamon rolls are only available by pre-order. Customers pick them up in one of four pop-up locations on Saturday and Sunday mornings. 

Zito’s logistics skills came into play as they scaled up from making 60 to 1,400 rolls. While the baking business is booming, there have been some challenges along the way.

ZITO: We’ve been married for eight and a half years and the entire time we’ve been married, and I’ve toured, so we’ve never been together this much ever, not just living together but like working together. One of us is way more patient than the other person…

Running a pop-up bakery certainly isn’t for everyone, but Zito and Christin encourage others facing uncertainties not to be afraid of trying something new. 

ZITO: A lot of people are stuck in their fear of not knowing what it is they could do or how to pivot or how to move. You just have to like, put in the time and keep exploring. Don’t dismiss something right off the bat, follow it through, give it a shot, see where it can lead you.

CHRISTIN: There is something for everybody out there that you can reinvent yourself. And it’s scary, but it’s worth it. You just have to take steps and try, because you never know what could actually succeed.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Vivian Jones in Nashville, Tennessee.

(Photo/Rock N RollZ) Zito and Christin

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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