By Lucianne Shoffner
Paris, Tennessee is home to a special shop with the best ice cream, baked goodies, and coffee around. Sweet Jordan’s opened in 2017, the special people who run this shop have a tasty story to tell!
When Jordan finished high school, he didn’t know what direction his life would take, and what opportunities would be available because he has Downs Syndrome. His parents Brad and Tommie St. John wanted the very best for Jordan as any parent does. They realized he needed something to give him a sense of purpose and value. One day while at home Jordan and his dad found ‘Great Aunt Ethel’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe’ that makes six dozen cookies. They made so many that they decided to take them to the volunteers at the Helping Hand radio auction. Everybody loved them, Jordan loved making cookies and the inspiration was born. The family prayed about it, and God stepped in. Now, Sweet Jordan’s employs 36 special needs individuals giving them a purpose and something to look forward to in their lives.
Brad began the story, “Sweet Jordan’s was not even an idea in our head three years ago.” He shook his head and grinned, “We prayed, and my faith wanted to put us in a 1200 square foot building that we could borrow the money to complete. “But Tommie kept passing our current location on her way to work each day and knew in her heart this is where we were supposed to be. 1200 square feet we could do, 3600 square feet only God could do, and He did!”
“There have been so many miracles that have occurred to make this possible—even the mirrors in the bathrooms,” Tommie, Jordan’s Mother, told us. “The electrician informed us he needed the mirrors for the bathrooms before he could install the lights. The mirrors we needed were large and expensive. I got out to my car and called out, Lord we need mirrors. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I got a phone call. The lady on the phone asked ‘Can you use some mirrors at Sweet Jordan’s? I have some from our remodel that we don’t need anymore.’ I literally had to pull over because I was crying so hard. I told her that she was an answer to prayer, I literally had just prayed for mirrors. God has done so much to make what seemed impossible, possible.”
“When we first opened Sweet Jordan’s we thought God’s purpose for this place was to create value and purpose in the lives of our special team members and it does just that. That’s the reason there is a wall of windows looking into the kitchen.” Tommie told us. Brad, added more, “God’s greater purpose with this is to educate people so that we can begin to see each other through the eyes of a special needs adult: in their special non-judgemental way.” They don’t see race, they don’t see political affiliations, they don’t care where you go to church, they don’t care where you live, what you drive, they just see your heart and they love you unconditionally. So the only thing they do is give and receive love.
Tommie continued, “We’re all part of a team—the same team— the special team members don’t understand competition and being against each other. They’re for each other and when somebody does something great everybody cheers. That’s what we all should do every day, but often that’s not the case. I think coming in here, people get the opportunity to experience our special team members and take that experience back into their daily lives.”
According to Brad, there are two things that make you happy in life, a sense of accomplishment and making a positive impact on someone’s life. The special needs adults who work here certainly have a purpose that they are proud of with their jobs. While it is slower paced, they are meticulous with the cookies, they are perfect in size, the recipes are perfectly made to the specifications given to them.
The people who have given to make this happen are listed on the wall above the windows that overlook the baking production area. Along with the verse John 3:30, “More He, less me.” Each name represents the gifts that have been given, and continue to be given, to make Sweet Jordan’s a reality. “The people in this community have given so much, and embraced our special team members, it has been such a blessing. People have donated even though we are a for-profit business, not a non-profit… they have just wrapped their arms around us!” Tommie added.
With 14 other employees that help the special needs adults, as needed, the staff is one big family that strives to give each person who walks through their doors a life-changing experience.
The decor in the bakery is Tommie’s area. She wanted it to be friendly, modern, yet a place for a Mom to come and drink coffee while her children play in the play area that is well used by the children who visit. It has cozy conversation areas and a place where people can plug their laptops in, to work or do research, or even where kids can do homework as needed.
Bakery items include cookies like snickerdoodle, the original chocolate chip, oatmeal, sugar, peanut butter, coconut pecan, double chocolate chip, and white chocolate macadamia nut. The breads they make are—cinnamon, banana, cinnamon banana and blueberry along with other baked goodies like bread pudding, cinnamon rolls, and chocolate brownies. Then there’s the homemade ice cream. Oh my, flavors like banana pudding, espresso brownie blast, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, and so many others, birthday cake, peanut butter, smores, and blue raspberry. There are nineteen flavor spaces in the front case, but there are about 30 flavors available—and it all started with 7 old fashioned, small ice cream churns that took up to an hour per batch. “We made ice cream all day and night trying to keep up with demand. Then finally we received a check for $10,000 that allowed us to purchase a large, commercial ice cream batch freezer.” Tommie added, “It takes about 10 minutes per batch now!”
Sweet Jordan’s has also become known for their delicious homemade soups and croissant sandwiches. Their soups include Broccoli cheese, queso potato, tomato bisque, three bean, and buffalo chicken and cheese. Sandwiches include chicken salad, tuna salad, cold cut, grilled cheese and their most popular, grilled cheese with bacon and pickles. Brad says “We can’t keep Texas Toast in stock.”
With the addition of Sweet Jordan’s Coffee Co. next door, they have been able to add more jobs, but constantly need more opportunities for the special team members. So next steps for Sweet Jordan’s is packaging and shipping the cookies, the frozen cookie dough, and the ice cream on a larger scale,” Tommie told us. “We are also working on ‘baseball type cards’ that tell about the special team members, their favorite things, etc.” Brad and Tommie have a goal to hire 100 special needs individuals and open other locations by the end of 2020.
What’s Jordan’s favorite thing? He loves to run the cash register, and to be a light for Jesus!
Tommie and Brad love that God chose them to be the parents of Jordan St. John and are humbled that they get to be a small part of what He is doing in and through this special place!