Does your family have that sacred secret recipe that’s handed down through the generations? The oldest aunt or grandmother might safeguard it. Well, in the case of the Allen family of the Highlands of North Carolina, their family secret recipes are their shortbread and cheese biscuits recipes. Almost 40 years ago, grandmother Willa Allen began baking traditional shortbread from her home kitchen. It was reserved only for special occasions at her local country club.
But word travelled fast… as did demand. She expanded her kitchen, adding in a second oven, and started to offer the baked goods at her local markets. Locals were no longer willing to wait for those special occasions at the club—Willa’s shortbreads were an everyday necessity. Her name first became legendary in the Carolinas, but as people moved away, Willa received mail orders from across the country. Another expansion to a larger commercial kitchen in Flat Rock, NC, was necessary to keep up with orders coming in from local gourmet stores and bed and breakfast inns.
In 2006, Willa decided it was time to hang up her apron, but more importantly, it was time to pass on her secret recipes. Her son Clark Allen and his wife, Tracy, along with her sister Teresa Rion and her husband, Eric, partnered up and acquired the ever-expanding baked goods dynasty. Production moved out of the Allen home of North Carolina to the rolling hills of Goodlettsville, TN, but everything is still made by hand in small batches with all-natural ingredients, no preservatives or artificial ingredients. Just as Willa did. And those family recipes? The Allens and Rions still keep them under lock and key.