ASHEBORO – Dallas Brooks is proud of what her family has meant to Asheboro Mall.
So as the lone oven is turned off this weekend at Cookie Jar, she senses a bit of sadness. Her treats through the years brought happiness.
“I hope I will forever be known as the ‘Cookie Lady,’” Brooks said.
Cookie Jar is set to close Sunday. That will end nearly 40 years in business for one of the mall’s original tenants.
Brooks is the daughter of Cookie Jar founder Wesley Vestal, who opened the store in September 1982 at what was then called Randolph Mall.
Three years later as a 13-year-old, his daughter began working in the family business.
“We had a very successful business,” Brooks said.
So the family from Siler City opened a similar store at Greensboro’s Four Seasons Town Centre. That store was in operation for almost 25 years until May 2010.
“We got out while the going was good,” Brooks said.
But the Asheboro location has been special. It thrived on a basic model, selling cookies and drinks. Brooks has handled the majority of the baking and decorating, both which are done on site.
“I’ve had great employees over the years,” Brooks said. “They’ve had longevity.”
Aside from family, there’s Barbara Moore, who has worked for Cookie Jar for more than 20 years.
“This has been Barbara’s life for 20 years, too,” Brooks said.
Vestal, 78, still visits about once a week, so he remains associated with the store.
“When something breaks, I come out and fix it,” he said.
Now, there are two non-family employees. She told them in early January about the plans to close. As word spread, many customers have made it by for a final purchase.
“It’s kind of nice to see them,” Brooks said. “It might get a little emotional here. It already has.”
Vestal said there has been plenty of reminiscing the past few weeks, particularly with so many patrons stopping by with well wishes.
“We didn’t know we were so well thought of in the county,” he said. “It makes you feel good, but it’s still sad.”
There’s just the one oven at Cookie Jar. The Greensboro location had two ovens.
“It has had a lot of action,” Vestal said of the oven.
With the lease about to expire, Brooks, who turns 50 next month, said it was the right time to go into retirement. She said this will provide more time to spend with her father.
Brooks said declining sales with reduced mall traffic went into the decision. Another longtime mall tenant, The Peanut, closed in 2013.
There also has been a wholesale part of the business with the family serving as a distributor, but that’s likely to wind down as well, Brooks said.
A representative of Asheboro Mall management said the closing of Cookie Jar is a loss for the mall, but it’s too soon to know what might be next for that spot. Other questions regarding potential replacements at the location were referred to corporate headquarters of Hull Property Group, which operates malls across a multi-state area.