After 5½ years across from Highland Plaza, Chatta-Cakes Bakery has moved farther north on Hixson Pike to a new and larger location – but a place where satisfying a sweet tooth is old hat.
In early May, owners Shannon and Mike Anderson relocated from 3904 Hixson Pike to 5143 Hixson Pike in another retail strip with origins in the mid-20th century and the beginning of suburbia in this part of Chattanooga.
And their particular new space was for more than 30 years the location of Kay’s Kastles, the popular former ice cream shop that had numerous locations around Chattanooga and was the local Clumpie’s of its era.
“A lot of people come in here and say, ‘We used to hang out here,’ ” said Shannon Anderson with a laugh of people’s memories of the ice cream shop that was also known for its chilidogs and barbecue sandwiches.
The couple added that they also saw the Kay’s name written down in connection with its milkshake blender on some of the old ductwork while getting the new location ready.
They did do extensive renovations on the interior of the building – doing much of the work themselves after hours — but they have tried not to redo their business philosophy of unique and freshly made bakery treats and customer service.
And so far, that strategy seems to be working in the new location.
“It’s way busier,” said Shannon. “There are a lot more customers. We are more on the forefront of Hixson. We’ve done really well.”
They had decided to move primarily due to a need for a larger kitchen and other space, and so they started work on the building, which is in the same Austin family-owned shopping center as AutoZone and the Bethel Thrift Store.
That effort included about 20-30 hours a week -- on top of the 65-75 they were already working – before the May 3 opening.
While it all has obviously been hard work, it has turned out to be a labor of love for them. And the love has been for Shannon’s late mother as much as their enjoyment with operating the bakery.
Having worked as a dental assistant and having some experience in graphic design, the Lutheran School and Hixson High graduate had always wanted to open a bakery due to a love for baking and possessing a flair for art.
As she jokingly said, she used to help people prevent or be treated for cavities, and then she wanted to begin giving them cavities by making sweet treats.
While taking that initial business step was almost the easy part along with knowing that her husband, Mike, could help support her and the business initially through his work with Roadtec, coming up with a name and logo were not so simple.
Unfortunately, her mother, Maryanne Spencer, was in Hospice care at that time and did not live to see the bakery open, but she did offer a secret formula or recipe for success simply in the form of encouragement.
“I was struggling with the name and Mom kept on encouraging me. She said, ‘I’m not going to be here, but you will know the name when it comes,’ ” Shannon said.
And sure enough, she soon dreamed about the name Chatta-Cakes Bakery and having the bluebird – her mother’s favorite bird -- as the logo.
Both at the former and current location, the light blue color and a sketch of a bluebird done by Shannon are prominently displayed along with the name.
The family connection is also prominent in some of the recipes. Shannon said her mother’s pound cake recipe is used, the thumbprint cookies come from her grandmother, and they also used a great-grandmother’s apple stack cake recipe.
It is also a family affair in that both Mike and Shannon make the various baked treats. On a typical day, he might prepare all the doughs, while she might make the bars and the pound cakes and the chocolate cakes.
“I’m a decorator,” she said. “I’ve always been an artisan since I was a little girl and graphic design helps with color and placement and variety.”
For Mike, who was also raised in Chattanooga and attended Tennessee Temple in high school, his experience and background for this job have simply been more as a loving and supportive husband.
“It is totally different,” he said with a laugh of the work. “In my other job I was behind a computer all day.”
While his goal had been to eventually start helping with the bakery fulltime after it opened in late 2013, that plan was expedited after he was unfortunately laid off from his former job less than a year later.
They have also been able to extend the family concept of the operation by doing well enough to hire another couple, Jordan and Joey Knaack, to help them. And Shannon’s niece, Kaitlyn Whalen, who had worked at the bakery for 2½ years before moving to Memphis, has also decided to rejoin them in the new location.
And they have kept busy making such regular items as cake bites, snicker doodles, Reese’s peanut butter cup cookies, cupcakes, sour cream pound cake, sugar cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, thumbprint cookies, pecan bars, magic bars, chess bars, macaroons and Ritz crackers covered with peanut butter and chocolate.
Mike said his personal favorites are the peanut butter treats and chocolate chip cookies, while Shannon likes the magic bars and the German chocolate cakes.
Besides walk-in business, they also have several corporate, health care/dental and other regular clients and do items for weddings. A typical week of special orders might include baking 40-50 cakes and 300-500 cupcakes, they said.
They also try to do some charity baking for the Lana’s Love Foundation program at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital. And they also make cupcakes for students at Hixson and DuPont elementary schools with the help of Rock Bridge Community Church in Hixson.
While their new location near Northpoint Boulevard is home to several other places that sell baked items – Federal Bake Shop, the Bread Basket and Mimi’s Deli – Shannon said they actually have a good relationship with each one.
Because they are all slightly different from each other in offerings and styles of cakes and other treats, they actually send each other customers, she said.
“Instead of being competitors we band together,” Shannon said, adding that she grew up on the Federal Bake Shop.
One piece of help the Chatta-Cakes Bakery also has is that older people are used to walking in this former Kay’s Kastle building in Hixson and getting treats. According to the old Chattanooga city directories on file at the Chattanooga Public Library downtown, Kay’s was at that location from the late 1950s until about the early 1990s, when the site started being occupied by Hixson Carpet and Tile.
For years the telephone number of the Kay’s there was 7-9174, and then 877-9174, the directories say.
At the time the Kay’s store opened there in the late 1950s, other Kay’s in Chattanooga were at the flagship location and headquarters at 3311 Brainerd Road, 1726 Dayton Blvd., 313 Dodds Ave., 3006 Dodson Ave., 2300 Fourth Ave., 36 Frazier Ave., 3806 Ringgold Road, 4907 Rossville Blvd., 324 Vine St., 3924 Tennessee Ave. in St. Elmo, and Daisy, Tenn.
The store had been started in 1934 by Frank Kollmansperger, who used the first letter of his last name in coming up with the name of the business. The firm later was sold several times and was mainly phased out, although the Kay’s Kastle in Soddy-Daisy has continued as an independent operation.
Mike said he remembers the Kay’s Kastle being there at the Hixson location as a youngster and recalls that a Wild Bill’s Pizza and a Mexican restaurant were later there, while Shannon does not remember Kay’s.
But she does still vividly recall her dream of seemingly long ago of wanting to open a bakery, and is glad she and Mike followed through with it.
“I was scared to death,” she said of initially stepping out and opening their own business. “It was a distant dream.”