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Mothers-in-law shatter stereotype in joint restaurant venture

fr cupcakesSitting in their bakery-café last week, Ann Cooper and Kim Buchanan were constantly intervening to expound on the other’s comments or completing each other’s thoughts.

More like sisters or longtime friends than mothers-in-law, they laughed as they debated who inspired the name of their restaurant — Sassy Sunflower.

“She’s so sassy,” Cooper said.

“No, she’s so sassy,” Buchanan countered.

To settle the faux dispute, the pair tells people who ask about the name to decide for themselves who is sassy and who is sunflower.

The two mothers-in-laws combat the idea that they must be mortal enemies, locked in a constant faux battle of who’s the best.

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“Why is that?” Cooper said. “Your children must be somewhat like you, so if they get along then why shouldn’t you?”

Cooper and Buchanan opened Sassy Sunflower in Cherokee in March after complaining about a lack of healthy food options on the reservation.

“We have talked for a long time about needing a place to eat,” Buchanan said.

Although there are some quality eateries in Cherokee, they’re sit-down restaurants, which people don’t always have time for. For something quick, people must often resort to unhealthy fast food joints like McDonald’s or Arby’s.

Cooper said they wanted “a place to eat that’s not fried and not fast food.”

So, about a year ago, the duo began considering opening a restaurant together. At the time, both worked at Four Seasons Christmas Store just a few doors away from their new café and would pack their own homemade lunches and bring in different recipes for the other to try.

But, really, it begins years before that. Their children, Zeke and Krysta, are high school sweethearts and dated for eight years before getting married. They will celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary later this year.

When Zeke would eat at Buchanan’s house, he would brag about the food he ate there. When Krysta would have dinner at Cooper’s house, she would do the same.

Both women had cooked and baked with their own mothers, but joked that they really learned to cook after tying the knot themselves.

“We got married. That’s how we did it,” Cooper quipped.

“I had this man who wanted to eat,” Buchanan added.

Because of their similarities, opening the business together was easy as pie, Buchanan said.

“We do have a lot of the same common likes and dislikes, and the way we see things is pretty much the same,” Buchanan said.

Last winter, when a former restaurant building went up for sale, they jumped on it. After a few months of remodeling and painting, they opened for business, selling soups, salads and sandwiches as well as bakery goodies — and have relished it.

“To me, it’s been enjoyable getting to know the local people here, and they come and support us at lunch,” Buchanan said.

While Cooper and Buchanan have enjoyed working together, talking and laughing and poking fun with each other, their children looked at them like they were mad when they brought up the idea of the Sassy Sunflower, the pair said.

“Our kids, they thought that we were crazy,” Buchanan said.

“My son just said, ‘Behave yourself, mom,’” Cooper recalled.

But, so far, the pair of mothers-in-law has enjoyed owning the café, both flipping back and forth between claiming the titles of sassy and sunflower.

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