Kasie Coleman has had cancer twice. She has had key organs removed because of cancer, and she once thought her life was running headlong into a swift end.
She battled back from all of that with faith and the idea that things would get better. Coleman even had the grit to start her own business in north Baton Rouge’s tough 70805 ZIP code area.
Her story caught my attention months ago, and I wrote a column about how she had overcome her life-threatening health issues and cranked up her business. I even bought a couple red velvet cupcakes just to see if her product was as good as her story.
I was impressed.
A couple of months ago, I was a celebrity waiter at a fundraising event where folks giving money to the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging were sampling her signature Sugar Belle cupcakes.
On the Wednesday before Valentine’s Day, Coleman came to my attention again. But this was for a wholly different reason.
“When I saw the gun, all I could think about was ‘Oh, my God,’ ” Coleman told me, describing how a young robber came to her Plank Road business and pointed a handgun in her face and demanded money.
“You know, people talk about how their life flashes before them when they think they are going to die. Well, my life did not flash before my eyes,’’ Coleman said. “I just thought ‘Oh, my God.’ ”
Frazzled and afraid, Coleman fumbled to open the cash register. The robber was getting antsy, and cocked the handgun he had inches from her face. One nervous movement by either of them, and she would have a closed-casket funeral.
Suddenly, the cash register opened, and she handed him the measly early morning take, including the $3 for the cupcake he had bought earlier when he was casing the store.
“It is so surreal to see a gun in your face,” said the woman who has battled back time and again from cancer. “Then, you think later: ‘Was the gun loaded? Was he going to shoot?’ ”
Just then, she smiled as she asked the best question: “Was I willing to find out?”
After the ordeal, Coleman said, “I couldn’t cry, I wouldn’t cry” because she didn’t want her situation to affect one of the workers in her store. “I knew if I started crying, she would, too.”
After law enforcement left the store, Coleman didn’t close for the day. “I didn’t want to draw attention to what had happened,” she said, adding it could have affected her business.
Coleman said she almost broke down after she called a friend later that day. “She said, ‘You must have a huge blessing coming. You overcame cancer twice and now you have a gun on you.’ ”
“That almost made me cry,” Coleman said. “But you know, I never ask, ‘What else can God give me?’ He might say ‘OK, let’s see if you can take this.’ ”
City police arrested a suspect in the case this week, which has made Coleman feel a little better.
Around closing time Wednesday, the last customer was making an order that was continuing to grow. “I want the praline brownie. … Give me a red velvet one. … Oh yeah, I want a butter pecan one, too,” the customer said while listening to suggestions over her cellphone.
“Those are my customers. I don’t plan to leave this spot,” Coleman said, even as she has a grand opening coming soon of another store clear across town.
Coleman said she is no heroine. If she has to face robbers a few more times, she will make a tough decision. “Yes, I will leave,” she said.
That will be sad, because Coleman is one of the best role models this town has ever seen, and her departure would be a devastating blow to a determined group of small-business owners in the Plank Road area.
For what it’s worth, I bought a few cupcakes as I walked out, hoping things work out for Kasie Coleman. A lot is riding on it.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.