Mitchell Moore never thought he might spend the remainder of his life baking tea cakes. When he purchased the iconic Campbell’s Bakery in early 2011, Mitchell regarded Jackson’s favorite cookie with a bit of skepticism, maybe even a slight disdain. The decades old bakery had built their reputation on these icing-topped shortbread-like cookies? Mitchell was a restaurant pastry chef, with a thriving cheesecake wholesaling-business on the side. Tea cakes?
But Mississippians had been coming for Louis Campbell’s original tea cakes since 1962, when he opened his bakery. They kept coming when Mr. Campbell passed away, kept coming for the tea cakes through a succession of owners, kept stockpiling cakes when the surrounding Fondren neighborhood became a skid row in the 1980s and 90s. Mitchell has since fallen in love with Louis Campbell’s tea cake (he sells nearly a 1,000 a week, so how could he not?). And the generations of old and new Campbell’s patrons have fallen for the bakery’s new owner.
When Rien Fertel interviewed him on March 19, Mitchell had this to say about his role in the Jackson community:
“We are here to bring back traditions. And then if you’re a part of this community and you share in that tradition with other people, that now has brought that community a little bit closer together.”
Less than a month later, in response to the passage of SB 2681, the controversial “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that many Mississippians are calling the new Jim Crow, Mitchell launched a non-discrimination campaign. From an interview with Mitchell in the Jackson Free Press:
“The examples people always use (when talking about how businesses could discriminate) always involve weddings and a florist or a baker (refusing service to a gay or lesbian couple), since those are the ones that have probably happened somewhere,” Moore said. “I thought it was ridiculous, and I wanted to get the message out that we are not discriminatory, and that I want to sell my product to as many people as will buy it.”
The result is the “If You’re Buying, We’re Selling” campaign, which has received an incredible amount of support across the state, ensuring tea cakes for everyone. And just today, Bloomberg Businessweek is asking the question, “Can Small Businesses Start a Gay Rights Movement in Mississippi?”
This is inclusion and exclusion. This is Mississippi. Let us all be at the table.
Look for Mitchell Moore’s oral history interview when we premier our Jackson’s Iconic Restaurants project next week.