A member of Nashville restaurant royalty, Claire Crowell grew up working in the family business by serving tables at Puckett’s in Leiper’s Fork. Steadily becoming involved in a more professional capacity, she acted as General Manager and then Chief Operating Officer of A. Marshall Family Foods. Eventually, she used her knowledge and experience to segue into opening her own business, launching Hattie Jane’s Creamery in 2015. Trust us — this is a delicious local brand you NEED to know about.
A small-batch ice cream shop offering creative flavor combinations, Hattie Jane’s is now a huge hit, with locations in Columbia, Murfreesboro, Franklin, and even Fifth + Broad’s Assembly Food Hall. Claire’s uniquely Southern ice cream flavors offer comfort and nostalgia in spades (try the Nana Puddin’!). Plus, she makes it a point to work with local businesses like Green Door Gourmet and Goo Goo Chocolate Co whenever she can. Please welcome Claire Crowell, founder and CEO of Hattie Jane’s Creamery, as this week’s FACE of Nashville.
Your family helped put Puckett’s on the map. How did that influence your childhood?
My parents bought Puckett’s in Leipers Fork back in 1998, and I grew up working there. It was very much a country market then, and my dad came from the grocery business. Over time, he developed it into more of a restaurant, which is what the community was looking for — less utilitarian grocery and more of a community gathering place.
Leiper’s was the inspiration for what the brand is now, and Franklin became the blueprint for how we broke through from that point on. In middle school and high school, I worked there on any breaks I had and then on and off in college. I served at the Franklin location, and then when I graduated college, I surprised myself by going back and helping out in a more professional career capacity.
What inspired you to open Hattie Jane’s Creamery?
We opened Columbia Puckett’s in 2013, and I also had a baby named Hattie Jane that year. We had this little extra space next to Puckett’s that was empty. The restaurant’s layout was such that we had carved out this little nook to either rent out to somebody else or use in another capacity. Columbia is a bustling downtown now, but that was still pretty early on. So, it lay dormant, and we joked and talked about what we could do with that space. Then I had Hattie Jane, and my dad — ever the marketer — joked about it being a great name for an ice cream store.
Ice cream is our favorite family dessert and pastime, so at some point, I got serious about it and decided I wanted to do that on the side. We opened in that space that we had available. We had no idea what we were doing; I thought it would be easy. It was not easy! I’d never made ice cream before, and we wanted to make it from scratch. It wasn’t purposeful, but we opened on Hattie Jane’s third birthday, July 1. It was a desperate decision because summer is when you make your most money, and it was the first date available after we got our certificate of occupancy. So, we hired Elsa (from Frozen) and had Hattie Jane’s birthday on our opening day. It was one of the most stressful days of my life! I was also pregnant with my second daughter, so it was a lot. But now, every July 1, we celebrate all the Hatties!
You partner with a lot of locally owned and female-led businesses. What are some of your favorites?
We partner very closely with Sunrise Dairy — they’re a Mennonite farm in Crossville, and they’re amazing. As far as our flavors go, we partner most frequently with Green Door Gourmet. Silvia is so creative, and she gets it. She has a culinary background, so she throws out ideas, and she’s pretty hands-on with that process. The one flavor we don’t have all year round that we get the most requests for is strawberry; it’s kind of a standard. But we only make it with local strawberries, so we only do it during strawberry season. The one coming up will be primarily Green Door Gourmet strawberries. I consider Goo Goo a partner; we do the Goo Goo and Jack to highlight Tennessee brands. We’ve also done a few beer flavors with Jackalope.
You’re about to launch your next flavor series. What can we look forward to?
We’re bringing back the Lavender Wildflower Honey. We did that for the first time last year, and it was really popular and pretty. We use local wildflower honey from Columbia, where we make all of our ice creams. Then we’ll have Candyland, a fun flavor that’s a nod to Easter. Strawberry season is late April or early May, so we’ll roll those two out next week, and then the strawberry will come in later. We’ll do a non-dairy, coconut base and our Dairy-Free Strawberry Jam, then we’ll do Strawberries and Cream with a cream cheese base.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Our biggest project is moving out of the back of our Columbia shop, where we currently make all the ice cream. It’s so tight and tiny. It’s laughable if you go and see what we’re producing out of that tiny space! So, we’re working on building a commercial kitchen. That’s a behind-the-scenes thing, but it’ll be huge for our brand because that will enable us to do more.
Right now, we’re a little too constrained on space to really “go for it.” In the meantime, I’m also actively looking for a neighborhood Nashville spot. We’ve got the downtown location that’s doing awesome; Assembly Food Hall has been such a great move for us. But we really want to plant our flag in a local Nashville neighborhood.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My husband has the sense of clarity I’ve never had. I have a lot going on, and he always cuts very clearly to the chase. I’m working on this with myself, but I want to do everything. He’ll tell me, “Claire, you can only do one thing at a time, so do the most important thing, and then the next thing.” I go back to that often. I’m like, “Okay, just do one thing first.”
Outside of faith, family, and friends, what three things can’t you live without?
My garden, my dog, and my wooden spoon.
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