For the past 11 months Jeff Waddell has dedicated time and effort into bringing Sweet Charlotte to life as a mainstay attraction for the Dickson County seat of Charlotte.
“There are times when people have come here, and they look at some of the old pictures, and tears start coming to their eyes,” he said. “We’re selling memories. It’s magical. It really is a step back in time.”
In addition to a variety of flavors of popcorn, the store features more than 130 kinds of glass bottled sodas as well as dozens of vintage candies such as Pop Rocks, Charleston Chew, Mallow Cup, Crickets, Caramel Creams, Cow Tails and Wax Lips.
Soda floats can be made with Blue Bell ice cream and one of the many bottled sodas.
Waddell said that “sloppy dogs” (gourmet hot dogs) will be available soon and the store will have a walk-up window to place orders. Waddell said that the store hours may increase after the hot dog area is open and he is considering adding seating inside the store.
One challenge Waddell sees is parking, created by the three-way stop of Highway 48 and 49.
“I’m hoping to see if we can get the city council to make the public parking lot that’s across the street available for Sweet Charlotte,” Waddell said. “Seventy percent of people who come in are travelers. People don’t mind walking. We’re trying to make it better every day.”
Sweet Charlotte has two workers on its staff, Michelle Green and Krystal McCoy.
“I love it here,” Green said. “It has such an upbeat, positive feeling for everyone. People come in happy and they leave happy. A lot of grandparents bring their grandkids. We have people that will walk over to the candy section, literally in tears.”
Site full of history
Waddell said he has been intrigued by the history of the buildings on the property located at the three-way stop where Highway 49 and Highway 48 converge.
He said that Ray “Shorty” Batten bought the land in 1939, built the building in 1940 and named it Ruth’s Place which eventually became a hardware store. He said that the hardware store owner needed to double his store size and moved to another location in Charlotte.
“The space has been a general store and little meat market and antique-furniture store, then became a hardware store for about 30 years,” Waddell said.
He said that he sees much potential for the stretch of business locations from the county courthouse to Sweet Charlotte.
“We want to make this a destination and make more places in Charlotte a destination, like this area could become a new Leiper’s Fork,” said Waddell, who is renovating several buildings on the property that are next to the popcorn shop.
Leiper’s Fork, a town in Williamson County near Franklin, offers a variety of live music venues, gift shops and restaurants that are popular with tourists and local residents.
Prior to his move from Texas to Pegram in neighboring Cheatham County, he had operated a Sno-Cone business. He and his wife, Maryann, moved to Tennessee to be closer to their daughter.
“I was gonna put a popcorn shop in Bellevue,” he said. “But this property came up for sale. There is something magical about this building. Next door, the cabin on this property was used as a hay barn for the hardware store.”
He sees the history of the location as something to celebrate by bringing the buildings that are onsite to a new life.
“The cabin will serve as an artisan shop for things like soap makers, potters, T-shirt makers,” he said. “On Saturdays, the cabin will be used for taking vintage photos.”
There is also a building near the cabin that will become the Creative Corner, where art classes will be held.
“We hope to launch the creative corner sometime in February,” he said. “This cabin is really a circle of life. We met someone who said their grandfather was born in the cabin. A suicide took place there. People were actually living there back in the 90s. In the 70s there was an outhouse here.”
He recalled when he first opened the door to the cabin, the floor had caved in and there was hay stacked all the way to ceiling.
The community connection
Waddell said he believes that the business can play a key role in connecting the community by providing a place positive place for encouraging and celebrating memories and dreams.
“I just found out today that there is an old road called West Road on the property,” he said. “It’s the original road before Highway 48. There’s the old Collier cemetery dating back to the 1700s behind the property. This area here was part of the original town square for Charlotte.”
There is a corner in the store that has black and white photos of the Town of Charlotte and the area around the business location.
Customers Brandy Lee and Pastor Monterey Lee of Ashland City said they were delighted by their visit to the store.
“This place needs to be on ‘Talk of the Town’ and ‘Tennessee Crossroads’,” said Monterey Lee, who serves at Celebration Christian Center in Nashville.
Headline: SWEET CHARLOTTE
Location: 1601 Highway 48 in Charlotte (at the intersection of Highway 49 and Highway 48)
Owner: Jeff Waddell
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
Contact: (615) 671-1084