Published in the Rains County Leader on September 18, 2018:
There was a time when a hot date consisted of a stroll on the promenade and a ride on the carousel. To add some excitement to the ride, some carousels featured a dispenser that offered a brass ring. The dispenser was placed so that riders had to stretch, taking a risk of losing their grip and tumbling off their mount, in order to grab it. The reward for grabbing the ring was a free ride, though, so many a dashing young man faced the danger for the chance of winning the admiration of a fair maiden. Brass rings are only available on a few vintage carousels now, but “taking a shot at the brass ring” has come to mean striving for the highest prize, or living life to the fullest. Last week, I shared a booth at the 2018 Rains County Fair with Tennille Case, a very special woman who grabbed her brass ring with both hands and walked away with much more than free ride.
Tennille is a wife and mother who until recently helped support her three teenagers as a part of RISD system, first as a teacher’s aide and then as the Junior High Secretary. But neither of those jobs was her first love. Her passion was for baking cookies, and she was extremely good at it. On July 10 she published the following post on Facebook:
Question: I’ve been giving some serious thought to selling my cookies and sweets. I can make just about anything but the decorated cookies (I’ll leave that to the super creative peeps!!) Am I thinking crazy or is this maybe a good idea? Looking for thoughts.
The comments popped up almost instantly – comments like:
I think it’s a great idea. I’ll place the first order for the Oatmeal Cream Pies.
Oatmeal raisin please!!!! And those shortbread w/icing!!! And those chocolate dipped in powdered sugar!!!! And……..give me time I will make a long, long, long list!!!!!
When can we place an order…for real!
Within days, she posted her first cookie menu, letting people know what she would be baking that week and inviting them to post orders in the comments. She named her new cottage business Tennille’s Cookie Jar, and over the next few weeks she created a Facebook page and business cards – and she baked cookies. She and her family are members of Believers’ Baptist where I worship and work, and her creations began to appear everywhere – at Home Group, at the Wildcat pre-game dinner, and on the pastor’s desk. On August 13, she posted this on Facebook:
Soooooo…..I did something today that I have LITERALLY never done. I took a risk…a chance…a huge leap of faith. I’ve decided to do this cookie thing full time!!! WHAT?!?
Y’all have been so incredibly amazing and supportive and I can’t thank you enough!!!! This really has always been a dream!!! When I was a little girl, my grandmother would have me “jump in the kitchen” and make snickerdoodles. And the whole time I would be pretending I had a “cookie shop” and was baking for a customer. And NOW….here I am!!!!
To say I love and will miss my Rains family could definitely qualify as the understatement of the year!!!! They are the most amazing group of people in the world!!! But they will never be rid of me…you can’t quit friends!!!
So, that’s it!!! Here we go!!! I’m so excited to start trying new things and maybe plan some events and just see what is out there awaiting me!!!
While all this was going on for Tennille, I released a new book, and in trying to think of creative ways to market it, I decided the Cookies and Books had a nice ring. I asked her what she would think of sharing a booth at the Fair. She was reluctant at first, not sure she was ready to go quite that public, but with the encouragement of her family, she finally said Let’s do it. By that time, my right arm was in a sling, and I almost backed out, but her excitement was contagious and we began to make plans.
I’m so grateful I followed through, because I had a ringside seat to the best show in town – a dream coming true. The first night, she filled her six-foot table with an assortment of cookies and two trays of samples. She later told me that she had expected those cookies to last most of the week with maybe a few additions. During the next four hours, however, she watched in wide-eyed amazement as her inventory dwindled, and she began to make an ingredients shopping list. The next evening she was tired after having spent 12 hours in the kitchen, but when I asked if she was “over it”, she grinned and said “No, baking still makes me happy.”
By the end of the week, she was running on adrenaline, Fair food, and energy drinks, but the smile never left her face. Her fame spread, and as soon as the doors opened each night, customers gathered in front of her table, grabbing their favorites early before they were gone. The last night, she was completely sold out by 8:00 pm, and she went to check out the rest of the Fair. She left me with 2 bags of cookies that had been paid for and were to be picked up later. I hid them under my table after I was almost mugged by two disappointed teenagers who arrived with money in hand.
Cookies and Books was a good idea – all that traffic was good for my business, too. We’re already talking about doing it again next year, so if Tennille’s Cookie Jar hasn’t outgrown the venue by then, come by and say hello. In the meantime, if you have a dream, go for it. The next carousel might not have a brass ring.