Those Behind The Strudel Shop

A Shop that Wouldn’t Be the Same Without Its Staff

by Lexi Croft / Garnet & Black

Situated at 1237 Washington St, Columbia, SC, The Strudel Shop gives the impression of a New York hole in the wall. With local art on display, the wafting scent of sweet and savory pastries and customers stopping by the piano to play a little tune, there is an overwhelmingly and intensely welcoming aura fully established by the staff. Although all from different backgrounds and previous experiences, Kevin Kelly, Jason Major and Orlando Santibanez have made The Strudel Shop what it is today.

Lexi Croft / Garnet & Black

Kevin Kelly is the owner of The Strudel Shop, which he moved from Charlotte at the beginning of 2022. His experience with strudel-making runs deep; the practice is generational dating back to recipes of his great-grandmother in Austria, and he also has extended family in similar businesses. His grandmother instilled a love for pastry-making in him when he made them for her church group in his youth, and even now, she still stops by the shop to show her support. Kelly is a very hands-on, engaging, and lighthearted owner who cares about the enjoyment of his customers, and someone who makes sure everyone leaves with a smile on their face.

Jason Major, a Columbia native, is one of the chefs at The Strudel Shop. He appreciates making experimental and savory dishes, as said by Major. "We try and incorporate a lot of the things we people get a different understanding of streusel, understand that it is sweet and savory, not just sweet." One such example is his sweet potato ratatouille, a flavorful southern twist on French cuisine. 

Major's experience with cooking started with French fine dining at Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia which closed in 2010. Following subsequent apprenticeships, Major began working at both The Strudel Shop and Holiday Inn in 2023. 

When asked why Major chose to work at The Strudel Shop, he responded, "I love the food, I like the presentation of the shop--it's fresh, it's new, it's something different, so I want to be a part of that...I love what I do, and I get a chance to learn some pastry tricks from [Kelly] to build up that side of my culinary skills." Major loves The Strudel Shop for not only being located where he was raised but for what it represents. He believes in the shop's ability to connect with others, as well as its ability to share food and cooking as art, both as true self-expression and as a culinary craft in all its different flavor palettes.  

Lexi Croft / Garnet & Black

Orlando Santibanez, originally from Arizona, started not in a culinary profession, but in the military. He was in military service for 11 years before joining USC as a freshman and working for The Strudel Shop on weekends. Santibanez's position at the shop originally started when he came to buy strudel on a busy day. Jokingly, he commented, "If you guys really need help, I can jump back there and help you guys out." To which Kelly didn't hesitate in replying, "When can you start?" 

With his second job, Santibanez has been able to nurture his love for cooking and baking outside of his own kitchen. With his motto, “What you put into the food is what you get out of it,” he has been able to produce mouthwatering strudels from the passion he puts into his craft, his favorite being the berries and cream. In addition, Santibanez introduced the veggie strudel to the shop for those who are health-conscious or have dietary restrictions, and it has by no surprise become a great hit with customers. 

What’s more is that besides a love for cooking and baking, the staff of The Strudel Shop is also 

Lexi Croft / Garnet & Black

brought together by their love for their community. They are consistent in their contributions to their neighborhood of fellow shop owners or customers, whether that be through displaying local art, participating in fundraisers and silent auctions/GoFundMes, donating to food banks or catering for groups and events. Each staff member greatly respects and learns from one another, and their different perspectives and backgrounds allow them to create a varied menu fitting for the diverse population of Columbia, SC. The staff puts great care into their work to ensure each customer is satisfied with their food and experience. 

The story of The Strudel Shop is an inspiring one for those in Columbia, SC, whether new or native. It's built on cooperation with others, following one's passions, and giving back to the community; things each person can learn from and emulate in their own daily lives. The Strudel Shop being in Columbia, SC is a testament to the hard work ethic and capabilities of its staff and is a beacon for those of similar values. 

Lexi Croft / Garnet & Black

The Strudel Shop is closed on Mondays and open most days 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but don’t forget to stop by on Saturdays and Sundays for their breakfast buffets—a perfect stop after the Soda City Market. Not only does the shop serve their strudel specialties such as berries and cream, chicken pot pie or cinnamon apple, but their creative chefs experiment and prepare entrees for buffets including but not limited to pizza, veggie ravioli and spinach spanakopita. More than 90 percent of the food is made fresh on-site, so if you’re looking for delicious food, a community-centered small business and a great atmosphere, be sure to stop by The Strudel Shop—at the very least to give the piano a little playing.