She started making sweet treats for Angelique Taylor as a young girl.
Now, a childhood hobby has turned into a small business serving meals to people all over Topeka.
Taylor is the owner and baker of AO Nola Praline Candy, which offers popular New Orleans-style caramel and peanut candies.
“I remember being in the kitchen with two different aunts, I was about 5 or 6 years old,” Taylor said. “And I’ve always made it for my family, never sold it or made it for the public.”
Aunt AO was a big encouragement in the beginning of Nola Pralines
Taylor came to Topeka in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, and she began working at the Topeka Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2006. He retired last year as a project manager.
Shortly thereafter, Taylor began selling his pralines.
“I’ve always been able to,” he said, “and my coworkers have advised me, ‘You just give it. You should sell it.”
But the motivation to actually start her business came from the love of her aunt, Sandra J. Victor, and Taylor’s ability to make pralines.
Taylor said Victor encouraged him to start the business long before he started at the Topeka VA.
“When you’re growing up and you’re always working for someone else, you’re kind of afraid to realize and know what you’re capable of,” Taylor said. “And he’s always been my cheerleader, my cheerleader.”
Victor died in March 2020. After her death, Victor left a last note for Taylor.
“When I was cleaning her house, getting it ready to sell, she had a piece of candy pecans that I had made for her under her pillow,” Taylor said. “To me, it was him talking to me from the sidelines and saying, ‘I’m going to have the last word and you have to leave the VA because it’s killing you.'”
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Where to buy AO Nola Pralines in Topeka
AO Pralines are now sold at Hy-Vee, 2951 SW Wanamaker Road in Topeka. They can be found at the end of the allergen-friendly aisle, on the display in front of the seafood department.
Customers can choose from six different flavors including coconut praline, creme and nut-free pralines, pecan brittle bars, piquante praline and pecan, peanut butter, chocolate, pretzels and sprinkles.
Bacon pralines are also available for your furry friends.
Taylor also sells her pralines at a local farmers market and runs an online website with $5 shipping on orders up to $100 before tax.
The price of pralines varies from 4 to 28 dollars, depending on the order.
‘Your own place, your own piece of heaven’ has now been found in Topeka
Taylor said he didn’t enjoy it when he first came to Topeka and doesn’t plan to stay. But he grew to love the city and the community.
“There’s a lot of people here from Louisiana and the South. That’s another thing I love,” Taylor said. “When people stop by my group, I get to hear their New Orleans stories, good and bad, and I love that. It’s just comforting to have someone else enjoy my hometown.
“When I go home and visit home and my family, I want to come home to Topeka (in New Orleans). I call it home now. It took me over a decade to finally call it home in my heart.”
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Taylor said Topeka is convenient for him.
“I feel like I’ve found my place,” she said, “I’ve found my piece of heaven here in Topeka, where I didn’t really feel accepted at first.”
Keishera Lately is a business reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Lately_KT.