You could say McMinnville native Rick Dunlap has found a recipe for success – a cookie recipe that is.
The business he co-founded, Moonshine Mountain Cookie Company, has baked its way into the hearts of thousands to the point where it caught the attention of "Tennessee Crossroads."
Moonshine Mountain Cookie Company will be featured on the popular TV series on PBS this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with a rebroadcast this Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
“'Tennessee Crossroads' came out and did about four hours of filming for what will be a 7-8 minute segment,” said Dunlap, a 1979 Warren County graduate. “We haven’t seen the finished product yet so we’re excited to see how they splice it together. We’ll be seeing it for the first time too.”
Dunlap and his college roommate, Mike Maddux, decided to start Moonshine Mountain Cookie some 30 years after graduating college after they both enjoyed successful careers in other fields. After about one year of online sales, they opened their first retail location in Knoxville in January 2016.
The company just recently opened a 4,500-square-foot production and packaging facility in the Turkey Creek area of Knoxville. Business has been soaring.
“We are so blessed,” said Dunlap. “We’ve had double-digit growth each year and our No. 1 customer is the University of Tennessee. Every recruit who comes on campus gets one of our cookies. We just recently filled an order for a crane company for 2,000 dozen cookies. That’s been our largest order to date.”
Busy season is approaching. The holidays are the most popular time for Moonshine Mountain Cookie because the cookies – now in 25 flavors – make such a tasty gift.
“Starting Nov. 15, we’ll triple our number of employees and our ovens will be running 24 hours a day,” said Dunlap, who said they have six ovens.
Now that college athletes can sign sponsorship deals, Moonshine Mountain Cookie has retained the services of UT defensive back Alontae Taylor from Manchester to promote its product. For every interception Taylor makes, the business gives away two free cookies in honor of his No. 2 jersey.
“Thank goodness he doesn’t wear No. 98,” joked Dunlap. “He’s had two interceptions so we’ve given away two free cookies twice. Our sponsorship deal with him has really been great. It’s brought us so much media attention. ESPN came in here and bought cookies from us and we didn’t even know it until the next day. They started talking about us and how good the cookies are during the broadcast of the Missouri game. They mentioned us several times on the air and that led to about 300 online cookie orders.”
For over 30 years, the "Tennessee Crossroads" crew has traveled the highways and byways of Tennessee to find unique businesses to feature. Moonshine Mountain Cookie Company is distinct for adding just a dash of flavored moonshine to its gourmet cookie treats.
“It’s just enough for enhanced flavor and moisture, but not enough to bother the preacher or the law,” said Dunlap of the moonshine that’s added.
He said he’s thrilled to be featured on "Tennessee Crossroads."
“They are always looking to find unique stories to tell and I think we are one of those stories,” said Dunlap. “It’s not often college roommates get together after 30 years to form a company. And after working together, we still like each other.”
Rick still has family members in the Warren County area, as does his wife, Michelle Blakely Dunlap, who hails from Viola.
“I really want to thank the many fine teachers from Warren County who influenced me in a positive way and who gave me confidence,” said Dunlap. “There were so many great teachers who made a positive imprint on me that I’d like to give them a shout-out, especially T.E. McGee, who was my DECA sponsor.”
After the "Tennessee Crossroads" segment airs twice on PBS this Thursday and Sunday, Dunlap says it will be available to watch on YouTube by searching for “Moonshine Mountain Cookie Company.”