Located in the midst of Oak Cliff’s gradual expansion, family led business Kookie Haven has spent the past year bringing a refreshingly maternal approach to Bishop Arts desserts.
Entering this facility begins with a dim-hued decor painted in white floral icons and pastry puns. Beyond the cash register is a visible panel where a handful of employees are seen collaborating on endless orders. Most importantly, this initiation concludes in a sensorial journey based on scents and flavors only found in real sea salts, nuts, butters, sugars, flours and dairy.
Taking painstaking care to merge the rawest, most rudimentary styles of baking with reputable customer service, the three sisters behind this bakery’s success fought through over 15 years of obstacles to reach their current success.
“We named the business after our mother, ‘Ms. Kookie’,” said Nita Briggs, one of the Haven’s three owners. “Everything we learned about cooking was from her.”
Considering none of the owners have a standard culinary education, a closer look into their upbringing points to a lifetime of cooking from the heart. In fact, Nita and her sisters – Kim Haynes and Darla McCuen – grew up preparing meals for the family due to their parents’ work schedules. Since their mother worked three to four jobs maintaining financial security, the sisters had enough time to test their sweet teeth.
“We would often sell homemade cookies to make the family extra money,” said Nita, who admits to handling a lot of these business dealings without her mother’s knowledge. “We would go through [a lot of] cake mix and borrow ingredients from neighbors.”
Darla McCuen concedes that her family helped put her dislike of cooking aside for the greater good of others.
“Through trial and error,” said Darla, “I realized the truest way to provide good food is to care for it each and every time.” She has co-developed Kookie Haven since its startup in DeSoto, in 2002.
During these beginnings, Kookie Haven built a steady following through quality desserts and services. However, an avalanche of financial and familial troubles led to the business closing down in 2004. Soon after, the owners’ mother and sister passed away from terminal illnesses, denting family morale for a long time.
“After [a period of] tears and prayers, we decided to restart our passion project on a clean slate,” said Nita, who joined her sisters in undergoing an entrepreneurship course at Southern Methodist University. Then in 2014, she legally used her home to reopen Kookie Haven before leasing out a Mesquite plumbing building for further expansion in 2015.
“Mesquite was great because lots of customers were excited about our revival,” said Darla, who strongly believes “without customers, there’s no business.”
While being challenged by a lack of foot traffic near their building, the owners’ father passed away on March 18, 2015.
Kookie Haven closed down again months later – hitting the family with another hiatus, battling more trials and error to find a stronger, more permanent home. The town of Oak Cliff eventually became ideal for its diverse population, closeness to downtown Dallas and the fervent popularity of its Bishop Arts district.
“We searched in Oak Cliff for four months until finding our current area,” said Darla. All of the sisters agreed that the space’s unique design could be easily made into a welcoming haven – worthy of a namesake as powerful as their mother’s.
The latest Haven opened on Nov. 11, 2017, and shows no signs of closing down any time soon.
“If I go to a restaurant or [bakery], give me the meal you would eat,” said Darla. “We never serve our customers anything we wouldn’t eat.”
Learn more about Kookie Haven by visiting them on Facebook, following their Instagram or calling (972)-373-4084. They open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. as well as Fridays and Saturdays from 11 A.M. to 9 P.M.