Would you spend the weekend at this getaway cottage?!
I met Cris through our Vegetable CSA that we ran in 2017, she's a fellow local and fellow small business owner, so we had a lot we could relate about! Lots of work and pouring your heart and soul to create a space and piece of artistic beauty. This is the first of several local small business owners that I'm doing an interview with! We exchanged a couple of emails and went from there, please enjoy, and if you like what you read consider putting your email in to receive news, updates, and blogposts from us!
What do you do and why are you passionate about it?
Dave and I own Oakleaf Cottage, a 27 acre getaway with a four bedroom Cottage and an event barn nestled in old growth forest on the side of Lookout Mountain. We had dreamed about creating a vacation haven for guests for the past 13 years or so. In our dreams, the barn wasn’t overly large, but could handle the occasional wedding, gathering, and local events. We knew we had found our dream the moment we came up the drive the first time – but it is better than we dreamed in so many ways.
What gets you excited and the energy to keep going when things are tough (it’s a small business, it’s tough sometimes!)?
There are so many things that fuel our fire. One is, Dave and I constantly talk and dream about Oakleaf. We are full of ideas, some crazy, some practical, some just plain fun. Also, every time a guest tells us about something they loved about their vacation at Oakleaf, it just puts us over the moon. Last but not least, when couples get married with us, our reward is that magical moment when two people say “I do” – and then we just love seeing people mill about and enjoy our space, looking at plants, exploring our trails, taking in the space – all of that keeps us rolling and fuels us to want to do more, and keep making the place better and better.
When did you move to where you are, have you always been a Chattanoogan?
We are both originally from Florida. We left 15 years ago, after four hurricanes hit the state in the space of six weeks. Insurance rates were skyrocketing, and we just neither felt like Florida was home.
What did you do before starting Oakleaf Cottage?
I’ve been a lifelong flipflopper between marketing and interior design. I enjoy both but neither enough to just do one over the other. Everything for a reason though – I think my experiences in both areas have led up to this place. I’ve designed restaurants and event spaces, such as those at Dancing Bear Lodge in the Smoky Mountains and the original Terra Mae in Chattanooga, as well as cozy yet posh spaces for clients .
Dave has always been this guy who can build anything – creatively. If you let him do his thing he creates the most incredible functional art. He did many of the art installations in Dancing Bear, and a kitchen island he did in Huntsville was featured in AL.com. He has a degree in architecture but I think it wasn’t hands-on enough – he needs to create.
What’s your vision or long term goal with what you’re doing?
Oakleaf is very much a retreat space, with a few different elements that all blend together – over time, we will be changing over to a true bed and breakfast model because we love to cook, and cooking breakfasts for guests at a friend’s bed and breakfast is what made me begin to dream up this idea before presenting it to Dave, and then the whole idea just grew. It’s connecting with people, learning about them and their experiences and doing things that make a getaway feel special. I want to be greeting guests with fresh lemonade or from scratch cookies, crafting a fantastic breakfast to start their day off, and be starting the outdoor fire for them to relax by at night.
We want to add in a few goats – they eat things like poison ivy – and when we finally move closer to Oakleaf we want to be growing the produce for breakfasts on our little bitty farm that we haven’t bought yet. We both love having our hands in the dirt and then bringing that love into the kitchen.
On the barn side of things, we want to be more than weddings. We want learning seminars, outdoor walks, art gatherings, writers groups, and even business meetings to be held here.
List some things you like about being in Chattanooga, or ways the community has helped or been a part of where you are today.
We agree, Chattanooga is home. We love, love love Chattanooga. We love the changing seasons, we love the mountains, we love the people, we love all the incredible things to do here, everything from the expanding epicurean adventures to the growing music scene.
Over the years, we have met so many wonderful people here in Chattanooga. A few very special people come to mind who have known us for years, and many who have walked into our lives at just the right time. God brings the right people to you at the right time, though you might not know it yet.
Reasons why you want to stay in the area?
We cannot imagine living anywhere else.
Top 3 reasons why someone should stay at the cottages?
Oh goodness, where to start? You can start your day on one of our trails while the rest of the house sleeps in, all the incredible hiking trails nearby (we border Cloudland Canyon State Park), Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding is about five minutes drive away, and our location is not far from Chattanooga yet not too close, the antiquing options, history… there is so much in this area to do and see. We provide the idyllic setting start your day and wind down again at night.
Follow and keep in touch with Cris and Dave through the following social media networks: