A Hippie Heart Ilene Evans’ Hippie Chick Granola Co. is a business built on love and a fresh start. Story by Allison Barrett Carter PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mark Steelman
It is hard to know where life’s road will lead. It is harder to know if you have the courage to follow it. Take Oak Island resident Ilene Evans. She never thought the road was leading her to be a successful small business owner in a North Carolina beach town. Evans is a native of New Jersey and just a few years ago was living outside of New York City, married, a mother to three children and working as a marketing professional. She had never set foot on Oak Island.
But 2012 was a year of change. Evans separated from her husband, her father passed away and one of her children was hit by a car (she has fully recovered). With three children to support and the rising costs of living in her hometown, Evans knew she had to make some big changes. So when a friend offered her an Oak Island rental property until she was back on her feet, Evans moved with her children. Thinking it was a short-term arrangement, she brought only what they could fit in their car.
“I sold my house, I sold all of my furniture,” Evans says. “We got here and I really had no idea what I was going to do for work. I was going to give myself a few weeks to decompress and then try to wrap my head around finding a job. I was going to go to the beach and relax, because it had been a rather tumultuous year.” She never left the island. She found a permanent place to live and enrolled her children in school. Today Evans is the sole proprietor and baker at Hippie Chick Granola Co. in Oak Island. Granola has always come easy to Evans, which has surprised those closest to her as she herself admits that she is “the worst cook.” Granola is her one culinary talent and she has embraced it. Back in New Jersey, Evans began selling granola to her friends and family around the holidays out of the trunk of her car. Most of her customers used the specialty food as gifts. But when the new year started, the demand for her homemade granola didn’t stop. Customers asked her to keep baking. When she moved to North Carolina, they asked her to mail the granola. They promised they would keep buying if she would keep baking. So when Evans found her family unit suddenly settled on Oak Island, she began to ask the big “what if.” What if she could make a business out of this granola? “I asked myself, ‘Do you want to do this to get a little money on the side or Winter 2016-17