“I kind of let things just happen to me,” she said. “I worked five hours a night at a night club and I worked eight hours a day as chemist,” she said.
Now, Pfeifer, who is originally from St. Louis, is an entrepreneur, who owns and operates Grits Bits out of her Buckhead residence.
Her signature product, the “bits,” are petite cocktail biscuits, which Pfeifer said are baked with grits and like “cheese straw batter then extruded and shaped about the size of a nickel.”
Pfeifer made it to Atlanta after a music agent recognized her talent at a night club in St. Louis.
“He said, ‘If you ever come south, call me up,’” she said. “And I came in 1973, called him up and started getting work singing in Buckhead and Sandy Springs. … I just fell in love with Atlanta. I always found it to have great opportunities.”
Then, she started recording jingles in local recording studios, which led to commercial voiceovers, and a year of recording wrong number messages for a phone company.
“My big love since I was a little kid was always to write songs and I won a contest and the prize was to song at Opryland [in Nashville],” she said. “Then I toured with Tammy Wynette singing backup. … I had 40 of my songs recorded.”
After traveling back and forth to Nashville, Pfeifer eventually settled back in Atlanta and she said, "I had honestly lost a lot of momentum. I felt like I needed to reinvent myself.”
Grits Bits originally started off as a cookbook business, which Pfeifer was inspired to create after a blind date to the movies in 1988.
“I told him before we got to the movie, ‘I want to tell you I’m a real popcorn lover. I want a whole bucket and I don’t want your mits in it,’” she said. “Then, he said he wouldn’t tell me his special Mexican popcorn recipe. … Having no experience, I started inventing popcorn recipes and ended up writing and publishing my first cookbook.”
The idea to use grits in her cookbooks ignited in Hollywood at a sushi bar, Pfeifer said, when the sushi chef asked how people make sushi in the South.
“I joked, ‘We use grits instead of rice,’ but then I was like, ‘I bet you can make sushi out of grits’ and I got an idea for yet another cookbook,” she said. “I made this deal with God. I said, ‘You better give me a sign.’ … The next morning at 4 a.m. I was writing down these recipes and heard this guy say, ‘I’d like a side of grits.’”
The man ended up being Greg Allman from the Allman Brothers Band.
“I just looked skyward and said, ‘I’ll do it, I’ll do it,” she said.
Pfeifer’s line has four different flavors, including cheddar, Vidalia onion and Jalapeno, as well as shortbread or “butter cookie.” She mostly sells them to small boutiques throughout the country.
Additionally, she still sells her cookbooks, cocktail napkins and stone ground grits, and specializes in $5 to $15 Georgia Gourmet gift baskets. She most recently started gift baskets for wedding favors and corporate events.
Pfeifer is a mother of two daughters, Jennica, 23, and Jianna, 16, and wife to professional comedian Jeff Justice.
“I believe the challenge and the creative opportunities that reinventing oneself offers her are what spurs her on when the going gets tough,” said Lynne Brice, a friend of Pfeifer and Buckhead artist. “I am often amazed at how Diane is always ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes to succeed.”
Information: visit www.gritsbits.com.