She doesn’t simply bake bread, she evangelizes it. Chancey Lindsey-Peake even took inspiration for her company’s name, Banana Manna: A Little Piece of Heaven, from the Old Testament food that saved Moses’ people from starvation after escaping slavery in Egypt.
“There are many people who don’t know what manna is — it’s an awesome opportunity for both me and my husband to witness,” she says of the business she started after her release from prison for distributing crack cocaine.
On a Thursday morning during a deluge of seemingly Biblical proportion, she dances around the commercial kitchen she and Dennis Peake, her husband of 13 years, built in the basement of their Easley home.
While two convection ovens heat to 350 degrees for a batch of banana chocolate-chip loaves, she talks about how they would put some of their earnings toward their prison ministry — “to fund gas,” she says, “and we had to stay overnight in hotels, sharing the gospel at different institutions. We stayed faithful. We would not faint.”
She mentions their Sunday trip to Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution, one of three South Carolina women’s facilities she was imprisoned in from 1991 to 2001.
“Not only was I selling crack, I was my best customer,” she says of the addiction that ended her 18 years as a surgical nurse.
After her release, she returned to Greenville, where a woman who she says worked for then-President George W. Bush hired her as a babysitter on Thursday nights. The woman, whose name she won’t divulge, gave her a banana bread recipe — which turned out to be the recipe for success.
She started off giving away her product. “If you told me you liked it, that was all I needed. I didn’t do it for the money,” she says. Until she did, selling her goods at various flea markets.
Banana Manna LLC incorporated in 2010, and in 2016, the company got an $1,800 microloan. Finally, she earned a coveted vending spot in the TD Saturday Market.
“Chancey’s remarkable talent for baking banana bread is surpassed only by her contagious positivity and joyful personality,” says Cameron Campbell, the city’s market coordinator.
During the summer peak season, Banana Manna produces as many as 200 loaves a day in pans 4 inches by 6 inches by 2 inches. More than a dozen varieties include banana bread, cranberry banana bread, blueberry banana bread, banana bread with and without nuts, gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo and more.
“We love Chancey’s personal story. She has a strong presence in the local community,” says Julie Jessmon, the chain’s senior bakery category manager. “Lowes Foods loves giving entrepreneurs opportunities to expand their businesses, and we’re looking forward to seeing Chancey continue to grow.”