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Sisters launch hospitality brand inspired by their grandma and her yellow house in Shelbyville

We're Open Indy: Black History Month — Yellow House Vibes
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Posted at 9:30 AM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 13:24:12-05

In celebration of Black History Month, We're Open Indy is highlighting Black-owned businesses in the Indianapolis-area. Check out all of the stories at wrtv.com/blackhistorymonth.

SHELBYVILLE — A fried chicken wing was always given to whomever walked into Jannie Macklin's home.

"It didn't matter if 10 people walked through her door, if all she had was one chicken wing, everybody was going to get a pinch of the chicken wing," Ricca Macklin said as she and her older sister, Keyen Macklin, laughed, telling one of their grandmother's favorite stories.

All guests — regardless of race, economic status, or beliefs — were welcomed inside Ricca and Keyen's grandmother's house on Noble Street in Shelbyville. Their entire lives the yellow house was filled with cousins, kids down the road, even strangers.

Jannie, known to those in the community as "mother" or "mama Jannie," was a foster care parent. She often welcomed strangers in with open arms, offering love, care and a warm meal. The Macklin sisters recalled a time when they watched her bring in a man who was suffering from homelessness and offered him a place to clean up and eat.

"Everybody was welcome in her house," Keyen said. "She's had homeless people taken in, she's had rich corporate billionaires at her table, so nobody was ever treated differently."

That kind of hospitality, "biblical hospitality" as the sisters call it, was all the two knew growing up.

When their grandmother died in October of 2017, Ricca and Keyen knew they wanted her legacy to live on through something bigger than themselves.

Three years later, their learned life values and Christian faith led them to start the hospitality brand "Yellow House Vibes."

"We got the name from our grandmother. Our entire life she lived in the yellow house. We spent a lot of time with her, so we want to vibe with the aura that she created as far as old school, biblical hospitality principles," Keyen said.

"Especially in our day and time, we feel like that would be really useful. Bridging the gaps between different cultures, different ages, different income levels with food and gatherings and really seeing what that would look like if played out in today's world," Ricca said.

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An old photo of the Macklin sister's grandmother's yellow house in Shelbyville, where they grew up.
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A wooden plaque hanging on the wall of Janie Macklin's house is a 2000 article written about her in the Shelbyville Newspaper.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

So, what exactly is Yellow House Vibes?

Ricca: "Yellow House Vibes is a hospitality brand that is really named after our grandmother and her yellow house, where everyone felt welcomed, loved, and taken care of in her home. She really was a good example of biblical hospitality and how that should be lived outside and inside the home."

Keyen: "A lot of what we're about is really teaching a lot of cooking and how to perfect our recipes to become more natural cooks."

Ricca: "Right now, we're really pushing our seasonal cookbooks, we have a fall and winter cookbook, and our seasoning blends, which we normally release with every season. A lot of biblical hospitality is bringing people who are strangers, to you. Some people who we may not share the same beliefs or backgrounds or cultures with just really kind of sitting down, hopefully over a meal, and having these conversations."

Keyen: "In bringing that old school hospitality ... we want to live it out loud to people, but it's also a reminder for us to be hospitable. Our company tagline is 'Hospitality is not your house it's your vibe.' We love hosting. Whatever that looks like as far as event planning and bringing people over for a meal. It doesn't matter how little or big your house is, you create that good energy for people to be welcomed in that way. So, how can we be Jesus followers and Christians and live that when we meet people that may be strange to us, how can we still present that welcoming vibe, that comfort."

Ricca: "In the future, we plan to continue with more products like our recipe cards that have cooking tips and quotes for people in the kitchen, virtual tutorials, and we look forward to in-person demos, hopefully, after COVID-19."

Why did you choose to call your seasonal publishing a 'cookbook' and not, say, a 'magazine?'

Ricca: "Some people say cookbook and some say magazine, but, we call them our seasonal cookbooks because it's made up almost entirely of recipes. Essentially it is a cookbook, but the style is kind of magazine."

Keyen: "We have some event planning sheets in the book and guest writers. For instance, in the winter cookbook, we featured a tea expert."

Ricca: "Each season we kind of focus on different themes and the recipes follow that theme, and we make sure to give a lot of education on it. And we do have some online cooking videos and tutorials that go along with the cookbook, as well as bonus recipes because our grandmother was really big on like turning leftovers into something more. Just to feed a big family, feed guests, and so a lot of our recipes will also have bonus recipes, so once people get that down, they can create more and more."

What are your favorite recipes?

Ricca and Keyen: "The sugar cream pie recipe, brown butter mashed potatoes, the sweet potato pie, a quick greens recipe ... a sauteed greens and bok choy recipe."

Keyen: "We perfected our homemade cornbread. We grew up loving Jiffy! Still love Jiff. So that was kind of the model — that blue box."

Ricca: "From the winter cookbook, I really like our meatballs. We have our own barbeque sauce. Our most made recipe by customers is our chocolate chip cookie recipe in the winter cookbook."

Keyen: Our grandmother's favorite was fried chicken because the next day she could turn it into 'next day smothered chicken.' She was all bout sustainable cooking."

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Sisters, Ricca Macklin and Keyen Macklin, the founders of Yellow House Vibes.

How did COVID-19 impact your launch?

Keyen: "COVID really prevented us from getting out into the community as much as we wanted to."

Ricca: "Had the pandemic not occured, for instance, we did have a nice event plan for Christmas time to better promote our cookbooks, and let people sample, and get to know us. But, unfortunately, it got worse, so we couldn't do that."

Keyen: "We wanted to do church tours, the farmers market the Indiana Black Expo was canceled ... so there were so many different events and things that got canceled that we had hoped would allow us to still open up by summertime but of course we weren't able to, so hopefully in the future."

What does it mean to be a Black-owned business here in Shelbyville, where you grew up?

Keyen: "I mean there's a smaller population, but as far as being Black, I mean we had a lot of support as a whole. I don't think race has affected our business, I don't think it impacts our vibe yellow business either. We've been fortunate with that. I know that's not the case in every situation."

Ricca: "I think this is across the board with any small business, I think once you also serve your community well and get involved — because both Keyen and I are both active in the community — and you get to know people, you kind of reap the benefits of also not just being a business. But really being apart of the community."

Yellow House Vibes

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