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For Valentine’s Day or any other sugary event, check out Sweet Charlotte
By Tom Adkinson
February 11, 2022

sweet charlotte sampler bar
Jared and Lisa Miller from Tallahassee, Florida, taste popcorn from the Sweet Charlotte sampler bar. Image by Tom Adkinson

CHARLOTTE, Tennessee – Whether for Valentine’s Day or any other occasion when sugar is one of your quests, there’s a little shop in the small town of Charlotte just northwest of Nashville that can satisfy your craving.

It is Sweet Charlotte, and owners Jeff and Maryann Waddell are ready for you for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, the summer solstice, St. Swithin’s Day or just any ol’ day.

Sweet Charlotte is decidedly retro, or as Jeff says, “We’re old-school around here.”

sweet charlotte exterior
The building housing Sweet Charlotte had several uses before becoming a popcorn, soda and candy shop. Image by Tom Adkinson

Want a sack of penny candy, saucer-sized lollipops or taffy in a jumble of flavors? They’re here. Want a bottled root beer sweetened with cane sugar? It’s here. Want bubblegum-flavored popcorn? Come on in. Want wax lips, or, heaven forbid, candy cigarettes? This is the place.

“This is a happy place. People enter with smiles on their faces and leave with bigger smiles,” Jeff said.

The shop’s signature product is popcorn in many varieties. Temptation awaits at a popcorn sample bar where you are encouraged to keep asking for more tastes until you settle on ones you want.

sweet charlotte michelle green
Sweet Charlotte employee Michelle Green gathers an armful of popcorn bags to stock in display bins. Image by Tom Adkinson

“Buttery Caramel and Peanut Butter Munch are perhaps the biggest sellers. Peanut Butter Munch is a real experience, especially when eaten frozen,” said employee Michelle Green.

All popcorn varieties are made on site with authentic ingredients – cheddar cheese, quality chocolate, real butter and more – and fall into savory, sweet and specialty categories. The specialties often combine ingredients, such as the caramel and pecan combo or the peppermint and chocolate combo. The Chicago Mix blends cheddar and caramel.

Jeff says taffy is the biggest single candy seller among at least 120 throwback candies available, but a small display case near the popcorn sample bar draws people for homemade fudge and giant turtles.

What Jeff calls “the largest selection of retro sodas in Tennessee” is another item that has made Sweet Charlotte famous.

There are almost 130 flavors of old-fashioned beverages. Some have no-calorie labels, but most brag on the special kick of pure cane sugar as the sweetener. If you want one right away, three coolers have chilled bottles for immediate consumption.

Among the rainbow of choices are Reading Draft Cola from Reading, Pennsylvania; Americana Root Beer from Mukilteo, Washington; Fitz’s Cardinal Cream from St. Louis; Frostie Blue Cream Soda from Detroit; Dr. Enuf from Johnson City, Tennessee; and Cheerwine from Salisbury, North Carolina.

jeff and maryann waddell
Jeff and Maryann Waddell are putting Charlotte on the map as a sweets-oriented culinary stop.Image by Tom Adkinson

The Waddells opened Sweet Charlotte in early 2019 after relocating from Texas. Jeff said they were looking for a business idea that simply was fun. That prospect lay in an empty old building at the awkward intersection of Tennessee highways 48 and 49, not far from the Dickson County Courthouse.

The building dates to 1940 and had served the community with various owners as a general store, grocery store, hardware store and furniture/antiques emporium. It was moribund when the Waddells bought it, but they decorated it inside and out with bright colors, bold signs and sweetness.

sweet charlotte beverages
More than 130 old-fashioned sodas, most of them sweetened with cane sugar, are on the shelf at Sweet Charlotte. Image by Tom Adkinson

“People tell me all the time that they drove past, saw the store and then pulled a U-turn to get back to us,” Jeff said.

harding cabin
This 200-year-old one-room log cabin houses an old-time photography operation at Sweet Charlotte. Image by Tom Adkinson

The attraction expanded beyond the candy, popcorn and soda store with the addition of a grill (hefty hamburgers, loaded hotdogs, fried bologna sandwiches and milkshakes), picnic tables, a group-activity party deck and adaptive reuse of a 200-year-old log cabin.

The Waddells created their own historical marker for the one-room cabin, documenting that Samuel Harding acquired it in 1885, but in another location in Dickson County. The cabin now is filled with vintage clothing and set pieces for an old-time photo studio.

Charlotte (population about 1,800) isn’t on most people’s radar, even though Montgomery Bell State Park, one of the state’s most popular parks, is less than 10 miles away. The candy, popcorn, burgers and nostalgia at Sweet Charlotte are enticing more visitors up the road.

“I want people to say this was a fun experience that was worth the drive,” Jeff said.

Trip Planning Resources:
Sweet, and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available on

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