BRISTOL, Tenn. – The road to Saturday’s soft opening of Tip’n the Scale, Jim, Jeff, and Maggie Cooke’s cheesecake bakery on Pennsylvania Avenue, has had as many twists and turns as the 375 different cheesecake flavors in their recipe book.
Jim and Jeffrey Cooke, who are partners in business as well as in life, arrived in Bristol, Tennessee, from Baltimore, during the COVID-19 pandemic in August of 2020 to be closer to Jim’s family and, in the process, perhaps connect with some of Jeff’s distant relatives from Gate City, Virginia.
“I’ve got relatives there (Gate City) that I’ve never met. I’m going to eventually try to find some of them,” Jeff said. “We moved to be closer to family.”
While in the process of moving boxes into their new home, Jeff fell and broke his neck. He received treatment at Bristol Regional Health Hospital, where he had to have a spinal neck fusion procedure. The injury ended Jeff’s 30-year career as a hairstylist.
“Because I broke my neck, I can’t cut hair anymore. My fingers won’t do it. But, I can still use a mixer, and I can still use a spatula,” Jeff said.
While Jeff slowly recuperated from his injury, Jim, a veteran who lost his right leg while serving in Afghanistan when the Hummer he was in was blown up, got a job working in the title department at Friendship Automotive. All the while, they kept reminding themselves they had moved to Bristol for two things reconnecting with family and fulfilling their cheesecake dreams.
“We kept saying we moved down here to do something particular. So we said, it’s time, let’s do the bakery,” Jim said.
With the help of Maggie Cooke, Jim’s stepmother and co-owner of Tip’n the Scale, they were able to find and secure the 201 Pennsylvania Ave., location. Through their resourcefulness and the assistance of their brother-in-law, they have been able to transform a space that had been empty for 20 years into Tip’n the Scale in just 10 months. The soft opening will take place this Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. during which customers will be able to get a free taste of Tip’n the Scale’s homemade cheesecake.
“We just started looking for things. We got tables from the old Days Inn and painted them our colors, chairs we got from an elementary school that happened to work,” Jim said. “You know, things kind of fell into place. People had this. People had that.”
The Tip’n the Scale cheesecake recipe, which is the foundation for all their cakes, is a secret Jeff thought up, baked, and perfected as a hobby throughout his time as a hairstylist.
“The recipe of the cheesecake comes from me as a side hobby when I was doing hair at eight o’clock at night to midnight. I was making my customers cheesecakes, and I made over 375 different flavors,” Jeff said.
Jim, who ran his own sub sandwich and pizza shop in Baltimore for 10 years, explained the difference between their cheesecake, which is New York-style cheesecake, and the cheesecake people tend to have in their minds.
“When people think of cheesecake, they think of the thin, dense, heavy cheesecake, and ours is nothing like that. It’s tall. It’s light. It’s fluffy,” Jim said.
At Tip’n the Scale, customers will experience a mix between a bakery and a yogurt shop. On one side, there will be a rotation of cakes to choose from, such as the signature caramel apple crisp cheesecake or the lemon blueberry cheesecake or a classic cherry cheesecake.
“Every week, we’re going to have a cheesecake of the week. So it’ll be like if I make a Snickers or I make an Oreo cookie cheesecake. It’ll be on display. That way, they can just get a piece of that if they want,” Jeff said. “We’re also going to do a suggestion box so people can have the flavor they want, or they think of a new one. They can put it in there, and we’ll make it a special of the week.”
Tip’n the Scale, customers will also have the option to make their own cheesecake by getting a plain cheesecake and choosing from a variety of toppings, which will change depending on the season. Jeff said they will be doing everything cheesecake-based that customers can imagine, from cookie sandwiches to banana splits, stuffed strawberries, ice cream, and parfaits.
“We’re going to have an adult section for toppings. Eventually, we’ll do like a Merlo cherry and maybe a rum raisin,” Jeff said. “We’re going to serve breakfast in the mornings from 8 till 11. We’ll have stuffed pancakes with cheesecake, and toppings. We’re also going to do danishes.”
Jim, Jeff, and Maggie have big dreams for the Tip’n the Scale.
“We hope it becomes the first of many,” Jeff said.
Tip’n the Scale will be closed on Mondays.
It will be open from Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p,m.
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