It was never all about the lemon cookies – or the sandwiches, although both became legendary. When Emily “Cookie” Shoemaker and her husband, Leroy, founded Ham ‘N Goodys in 1978, they thought of themselves as the shop’s operators and God as the CEO. The specials board always included a Bible verse. By touting the Christian principles behind their business, they worked as witnesses for their faith.
Cookie Shoemaker passed away March 8, having lost her husband, Leroy, in April 2017. The two had sold Ham ‘N Goodys to Dale Harold, who has maintained most of the menu and traditions.
In an obituary written by her son, Steve, it says that “for 37 years Cookie was the face of Ham N Goodys…. She endeared herself to thousands over the decades…. Her fearless heart, powerful persona and bright blue eyes could encourage and, when necessary, instill fear.”
Mrs. Shoemaker was born in Sweetwater as Emily Hicks, one of eight children, and married Leroy Shoemaker in 1949. The two moved to Knoxville in 1959. In the 1960s, while Leroy worked in the auto parts business, Mrs. Shoemaker became a well-known interior designer with Wellington Galleries.
The Shoemakers founded the business in a small building at Northshore and Baum (it later moved to its current location on the other side of Northshore). Recipes for tea cakes, Italian cream cakes and those famous lemon cookies were family treasures. The restaurant also became a favorite lunch spot for hearty soups and sandwiches as well as a place to get dinner items to go.
Mrs. Shoemaker and her husband cited their mothers, Nellie Hicks and Nettie Shoemaker, as their examples in cooking, hospitality and faith.
“She was such a special lady,” says Cookie Shoemaker’s daughter-in-law, Terri Shoemaker, who also apprenticed under her in studying design. “She was more like a mother to me. She would call me day or night and we would talk for hours. The last years of Dad’s [Leroy’s] life, she took care of him so tenderly. After 68 years of marriage, it was a precious thing to watch. Knoxville is a better place because of her presence. We are already missing her.”
In addition to her son and daughter-in-law, Cookie Shoemaker leaves behind a daughter, two grandchildren, several great-grandchildren, four sisters, and many beloved extended family and special friends.
The family will receive friends at Rose Mortuary Mann Heritage Chapel, 6200 Kingston Pike, on Monday, March 12, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.