The third time’s a charm. It’s likely a trio of sisters have heard this phrase before, but they probably didn’t realize it would apply so accurately to their lives. Darla McCuen, Shinita Briggs and Kim Haynes are the women behind the Oak Cliff bakery Kookie Haven. And although this location has been open just under a year, these sisters have been in business for quite some time.
Kookie Haven’s first storefront popped up in DeSoto in 2002 and closed in 2004.
“I’m not sure how this sounds, but it’s just true,” McCuen says. “Working with family is not always easy. When you have a family-owned business, everybody wants to be in charge. I left out of there saying it was just the Lord that we were all still loving each other.”
In 2015, the sisters gave it another shot, this time in Mesquite. And although this restaurant lasted only 15 months, by now, they’d mastered their roles.
“We had to learn that everybody has to work in the area they excel in,” McCuen says.
And while everyone can bake, it’s Haynes who brings the organizational skills to the business, while McCuen takes pride in the customer service.
“We want to be the Chick-fil-A of bakeries,” McCuen says. “They’re known for their customer service. They’re known for quality. If you’re going to enjoy a dessert, it should be special.”
Briggs helps lure people in with the treats.
“Nita is the one that comes up with all the desserts,” McCuen says. “She has that creative mind.”
And it doesn’t get more creative than the stuffer.
“A stuffer is a cookie and a cupcake together,” Briggs said. “For so many years I’ve seen people try and put a cookie and a cupcake together, and it just didn’t work for me. So we figured out a way to where it really goes together. It’s the best of both worlds. You get this crunch of a cookie, and you get the softness of a cupcake.”
Right now, you can get the stuffer only on Fridays and Saturdays. But you can snag their cookies, square-shaped cupcakes and brownies every day they’re open. Kookie Haven serves a variety of vegan options as well.
“To me dessert is not a ‘have-to,’ it’s not a necessity, but it just makes everything better,” Briggs says.
One of Kookie Haven’s secrets to creating memorable desserts: not skimping on any ingredients.
“We didn’t always do cupcakes. So, we went to a class to learn how to decorate and all that," Briggs says. "It was suggested to us in that class that we purchase icing and add flavoring to make it our own. And we did that. When we tasted it, we were like ‘Oh no, that’s not gonna work.’ There wasn’t anything special about this icing, even though we tried to doctor it up. So when we say everything is from scratch, it’s from scratch. We use pure vanilla. We use butter. We use buttermilk. We feel like our desserts are unique.”
Another thing that’s unique in the restaurant business, especially in Dallas, is longevity, something the Kookie Haven sisters are hoping for this third go-round.
“We can’t grow unless we grow outside of ourselves,” McCuen says. “If we did not do Kookie Haven, we do the world a disservice. Not Dallas, not Texas — the world.”
Kookie Haven will celebrate its first year back in business on Saturday, Dec. 1, with free cupcakes (while supplies last) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Kookie Haven, 337 W. Jefferson Blvd. (Oak Cliff)
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