Cookie Jar celebrates 15 Years

Sue Ann Lockhart at Cookie Jar Café. (Photo by Mark Gilliland)
Sue Ann Lockhart at Cookie Jar Café. (Photo by Mark Gilliland)

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COOKIE JAR CAFÉAddress: 1887 Kelly Cross Road in Dunlap, Tenn.Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT; closed Sunday and MondayPhone: 423-949-5852

A lot can happen in 15 years. Children grow up; neighborhoods change; one’s collection of cookie jars increases in number to upwards of 400.

On Sept. 1 Dunlap’s Cookie Jar Café — lined with hundreds of unique cookie jars — marks its 15th anniversary. A week later, owner Sue Ann Lockhart’s oldest daughter turns 15.

“She was born the weekend after we opened,” said Sue Ann. “I spent one night in the hospital, and she and I were back at work the next day! I love to hear all the stories my customers have about watching her grow up on the foot of my steps.”

The café’s deep history is rivaled only by that of its real estate. Designed like an old farmhouse, complete with wraparound porch and wooden rockers, Cookie Jar is built on the Johnson Family Farm that has been in Sue Ann’s family for nearly 150 years. Nestled in the foothills of Fredonia Mountain, the sprawling landscape feels as timeless as Cookie Jar’s Southern cooking.

The restaurant’s menu features all the classics: chicken and dumplings, grilled meatloaf, fried chicken liver, among many others. In addition to its hearty dinners, Cookie Jar is famous for its homemade cakes, pies and cupcakes.

“It’s getting close to apple season!” said Sue Ann.

Forthcoming confections will include — for a limited time period — apple pies, apple Bundt cakes, caramel apple cupcakes, and Cookie Jar’s best-selling fried pies in apple, cherry and peach flavors.

While its confection selection is worthy of its own celebration, Cookie Jar has a couple of plans to commemorate its upcoming anniversary. On Friday, Sept. 1, the restaurant will launch its menu upgrade, featuring some new items and tweaks to old dishes. Then on Saturday, Sept. 2, Cookie Jar will offer a free birthday cupcake to the first 200 customers — a giveaway that is sure to attract the masses.

After 15 years in business, Sue Ann said she is ready for whatever restaurant life has to offer.

“Restaurant life is hard,” she said. “It’s very similar to farming. You have to have a deep faith in God, a strong work ethic and thick skin.”