Seasons of Change

The wheels were up and we were en route to Las Vegas for our annual buying trip. I think it was the first time we had actually exhaled and sat still long enough to breathe in and reflect on the last year and the amazing journey we have been given to experience. It’s mind numbing at times to even fathom the pace by which we do what we do. It’s fun, exhausting and more clear than ever that our life has led us to this very moment.

I had made it halfway through The Magnolia Story by the end of the flight and poked Brandon almost the entire flight reflecting how very similar their journey is to the one we are on. Different, yet the same. Behind every success story is struggle; it’s never as perfect as the world sees it. Our story includes many “go? No-go?” moments like a game of Monopoly.

Even in the last year, we had so many plans and ideas to expand our business, but we were met with struggles. Not the usual kind that people would expect in a small business. We decided to move above the store in September after out-of-the-blue, someone walked up to us and offered to buy our house. Mind you, this is right as our holiday season ramped up. Brandon had been off-and-on sick for a year and finally was told he had lung cancer. So, as if him working a full time job, entering into our busiest season in history, moving (without the energy to do renovations) and ruling out that Brandon didn’t actually have cancer, the house deal fell through. Exhausting. Absolutely exhausting. And it sometimes makes you question the purpose of this journey. “Is it right, is it right now?”

So here we were, moved into an almost finished apartment, the HVAC had been installed incorrectly. It was a constant 80 degrees due to the hot fall season, and a lingering sickness perpetuated by a misdiagnosis made for a miserable transition. It was a living nightmare, actually. That’s like an eternity when you are trying to keep your Monopoly pieces in play.

Overwhelmed, we made it through the holiday season. Breathed a sigh of relief that we weren’t going to have to close the store, or worse, lose Brandon to a battle of lung cancer. (When you are whisked into see a panel of cancer doctors in less than 24 hours, your life flashes before you and you make a conscious decision to make all that can’t be counted, count.)

We dusted ourselves off and managed to pick up where we left off in July of 2016; dreaming up our next adventure. We had always dreamed of real estate and renovating old buildings, but we certainly didn’t have that on the radar screen yet. Murphey’s Law, that’s when God nudges you and takes you on a detour from the original path.

That real estate dream ramped up when we created our own real estate holding company, Nicoloff Properties, after being called to buy the old Spears Auto Parts store. Yes, an auto parts store. At the time, we planned to buy that building and open another business, but we had no idea that it wasn’t our time. Just like Chip and Joanna often were faced with was a turn of “the season” as they called it, we faced the reality that it wasn’t our time. Sometimes the season is ripe and aligns for the next phase of the journey and sometimes it reveals a higher order purpose. Like an auto parts store? Yes.

Nudging Brandon upon landing in Indianapolis, I said “maybe we aren’t supposed to buy this old auto parts store, it may not be our time?” Did I mention the closing was in less than 12 hours after landing? He said, “well we will know in the morning, because the humdinger is always at the 11th hour” (Meaning, some crazy kink in the plan, an unexpected turn of events, heck, an illness?) We had endured plenty of those turns in the previous months.

Keeping our hearts open and our ear ready to hear affirmation or some sign that this was part of a higher order plan, the bank called to confirm our closing details and told us “We’ve never seen in the history of banking; a closing cost like this.” Our hearts sank, thinking there had been some miscalculation and that the secret prayer I made on that plane was somehow going to sting with confirmation this deal was a no-go…Our banker said, “It’s 53.00”. That’s right, fifty-three dollars. Shocked, in a good way, we knew we were destined to make this old building new again, not yet sure why.

Our passion has always been to fix more old buildings, create a sweet little bakery and expand to include a more modern version of our store catering to uptown living, but not in the order it was about to unfold. That sweet bakery dream was as early as the name Marshmallow Monkey 5 years ago, believe it or not.

Hours after reflecting this crazy ride, we completed purchase of the Spears building and we were excited to begin fixing the old building, discovering historic details and breathing new life into that old livery and stable. We had gone as far as dreaming up a new name for it after our kids; Blaise Ashton and Olivia Grace (Ashton & Grace). We rendered a drawing, we had a dedication brick made with their names engraved on them for the opening…and that’s when the season changes, and you realize it’s not time.

We realized it wasn’t our time, it wasn’t the season. Now, it’s not all doom and gloom because the very friends of ours at Center For Global Impact and byTavi who bought our old store, faced the same growing pains and outgrew the same little shop we did. We all had shared our excitement in their growth and they were looking to relocate their boutique and  their global operations. They wanted to stay in Franklin, but buildings were few and far between. S0, through a series of conversations, we knew it was their season, their time and God was calling us to lend a hand.

It brought new meaning to the scripture we had engraved on that brick that was supposed to be in the new building at the beginning of this journey; Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope for the future.” And the story that evolved from there is so surreal, it’s hard to write it in one entry. But let’s just say affirmation sometimes comes in the sweetest little package; sometimes an auto parts store, sometimes a bakeshop (yes, a bakeshop).

That’s when it hit us that our little bakeshop is not only for our customers but it’s a little dream our son has always had. It’s not about us, it’s not about doing something that has already been done, it was about making our smart, gifted, son’s dream come to life. We want our kids to find the passion to live in the season, take the call when nudged and know when the season is right for their dreams. His is to be a chef. He too, has been faced with adversity and challenges, so we are focused on helping him make his little dream come to life, and showing him the way.

So the lesson learned is while the onlookers see one perspective, ours is to share that the season is here, and it’s not ours, it’s to serve others which is so much more delicious for us. Stay tuned as our journey keeps taking interesting turns. Like, really curvy ones.

We will keep doing what people have come to love, but growing at the same time. So as the wheels dropped on return from Vegas, I flipped the final page of the Magnolia Story to realize we too, have a story brewing and its an incredibly humbling and remarkable one, littered with so many ah-ha moments that we want to share. But for now, God is giving us this opportunity to build the story that is to be told. And this is just the beginning. Stay tuned.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ, Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”


With heart-felt love and best wishes to byTavi,


Brandon, Nicole and the monkeys (Blaise & Olivia)


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