Two years in the restaurant business might as well be a lifetime therefore it worth celebrating. That’s what’s been going on lately at north Scottsdale’s popular brunch spot SugarJam The Southern Kitchen. Owner Dana Dumas started baking her SugarJam cookies over 20 years ago for friends and family and business has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 2 years.
With no formal training cooking herself she learned from her Le Cordon Bleu trained great aunt Mable and her grandmother Thelma how to make baked goods and the family’s southern food recipes. Dana herself grew up in New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey (like yours truly) before moving to Scottsdale after the events of September 11th 2001. A career in business for Macy’s and Toy’s R Us taught her how businesses were run and how to use marketing to her advantage.
“It is an honor to bring authentic southern cuisine to the Valley and to be able to create a unique brunch experience that brings everyone together,” said Dumas. “I am truly grateful for the outpour of love and support from my customers over the past two years, and since the beginning of SugarJam. We are excited for another year at SugarJam The Southern Kitchen and all that’s in store.”
The early years at SugarJam
Dana started SugarJam Cookies in 2011 baking her signature jam filled sugar cookies at home and selling them at farmer’s markets and street fairs. With demand growing she needed more kitchen space for baking and the catering requests she was getting. She found a spot down the road from the current location in the Scottsdale Airpark. The bakery and small cafe featured a small breakfast & lunch menu and her baked goods. Things we going well until March of 2020 when the Covid pandemic brought dining out to a halt. The business started doing family meals and before she knew there were cars lined up for a few hours on Friday nights and Saturday mornings for people to pick up their meals.
As restaurants began to open up in the Spring, Dana knew once again she would need more room to accommodate the growing popularity of her cooking and baking. It turns out as she and her husband started looking at other locations nearby, one of her regular customers was a property manager of a strip mall a mile up the road with a vacancy. After the owners would fly in to meet with her and taste her Southern cooking, a deal was struck and SugarJam The Southern Kitchen opened on January 29th 2021.
She hasn’t gone without some struggles like that of the rest of the restaurant industry. Staffing and supply chain issues had Dana treading cautiously but now has a staff of 32 “family” members serving breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday. Several have been with her the last two years. She tried dinner service, although successful it wasn’t successful when it came to a work life balance as a wife and mother of 2 teenage boys and dinner was short lived. When not in school or driving them to high school sports her sons and husband may be found lending mom a helping hand at the restaurant. Her dad played a role in helping design the restaurant and is her “Mr. Fix It” when needed.
In the summer of 2022 she opened The Market at SugarJam, a gift shop featuring finds from local and national businesses.
I know you’re asking what’s on the menu? How about scratch made Creole Shrimp N’ Grits, French Toast & Buttermilk Fried Chicken Tenders with a delicious house made rum maple syrup, Salmon Croquettes, Catfish and Southern style grits along with pies, beignets and lots more. With a full bar guests can enjoy craft cocktails and flights of Mimosas.
In the coming weeks Dana will do some re-arranging moving The Market and cases filled with baked goods to an adjoining space she’s used for extra seating capacity. The freed up space will have more seating and a better flow enhancing the guest experience.
Having picked up several corporate and private catering opportunities she’s staffing up and training the kitchen staff in order to bring back catering in the coming weeks to grow the business. Don’t expect to see other locations of SugarJam as it’s not in the cards for her. The time away from the Airpark location would have her spending less time in the kitchen and with her customers. She also feels that it’s a destination restaurant with many guests flying in to Scottsdale Airport and making the restaurant their first stop.
SugarJam The Southern Kitchen is at 15111 N. Hayden Rd. Scottsdale 85260. Hours are Wednesday – Sunday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. with the kitchen closing at 2:30. To view the menu and for more information visit their website.
Check out my podcast Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.