For more than 20 years, Hala Yassine worked to perfect her recipe for the perfect scone, eventually taking the staple of English tea times from her kitchen to her own cafe.
Along the way, she relied upon the encouragement and business advice from her six sisters, scattered around the world from Boston to Dallas to Beirut. Seven Sisters Scones in Johns Creek reflects the continued support Hala relies upon to run her successful cafe.
“I always loved cooking,” said Hala, who lives in Johns Creek. “When my husband was looking for a portable breakfast, I baked him a scone and he loved it!”
Growing up in a family with seven sisters and two brothers, Hala learned to cook by both necessity and enjoyment. While attending college in California, she worked at restaurants as a chef and mastered the kitchen skills that serve her well in her own business.
Her first attempt at baking scones came straight from a box, with an end product Hala found good, but too dry and crumbly; the typical scone. She started experimenting with other ingredients and soon landed on scone recipes that earned rave reviews from her family and friends.
“The requests [for different flavors] soon started pouring in, especially from my sisters,” she laughed. “Can you make me an apple one? What about savory? Before I knew it, I had 30 flavors.”
The decision to make her scones a business was a family affair.
“While Hala was visiting her sisters in Boston, we all had a heart-to-heart with her and encouraged her to make this into a business,” explained sister Farrah Haidar, who also lives in Johns Creek. “She didn’t believe anyone would actually pay for the scones!”
In 2013, Hala started small – first baking under a cottage license and selling primarily at a local farmer’s market. The initial plan, she noted, was to focus on markets, special events and wholesale accounts.
But within a year, she went from one farmers market to six, and
soon outgrew the shared kitchen she was renting.
In September 2015, Hala and Farrah opened the cafe, Seven Sisters Scones in Johns Creek, with a menu that began primarily with scones, and which remains the foundation of the restaurant.
Hala explains the scones found at Seven Sisters Scones are different from traditional scones in a number of ways.
“First, these are not your average scones – dry and brittle. Instead, they are moist and filled with flavor,” she noted. “They are meant to be eaten as an entire meal – no need to add jam, butter or clotted cream.”
The scones are baked every day for use that day, using only real butter, eggs and cream, and the freshest ingredients available.
“When we look for ingredients, we are really looking for three things – quality, flavor and originality,” added Farrah. “We get as many of our ingredients as we can from local farmers and markets. We are really focused on the entire tasting experience – do the flavors blend well? How does it feel in your mouth? Does it have the appropriate texture? And is this something we would gladly eat?”
Scone flavors include traditional blueberry, cinnamon, cranberry and orange, and vanilla to more exotic flavors of fig and goat cheese, and jalapeno, cheddar and olive.
To draw in a lunch crowd, Seven Sisters Cafe began adding more menu items, including “sconewiches,” paninis, soups and salads. Soon, customers were asking for even more hot meals, so breakfast items, including omelets and quiches, as well as several types of pot pies, found a spot on the growing menu.
“The expansion was gradual and really driven by what our customers wanted,” Farrah said.
Hala still does the majority of the baking to keep the quality consistent, although more staff has been hired to help with production, under Hala’s careful supervision.
Although only Farrah and Hala work full time in the company, all of the sisters play a role in the business success, whether through advice or support. They often fly in from their homes across the globe to lend a hand during busy times and special events.
The business also has evolved into the second generation, with Hala’s children, Teema and MJ, now taking a role in Seven Sisters Scones. They are especially involved in the continued presence of the company at area farmer’s markets.
“We still love the markets and do somewhere between four and seven every weekend, depending on the season,” Farrah said. “They are a great way to connect with our customers and spread the word about our scones.”
The scones can be found at farmer’s markets in Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Chattanooga, Fayetteville, Peachtree City, Marietta, Suwanee and at the Green Market in Piedmont Park.
Looking forward, Farrah said Seven Sisters Scones has big plans.
“Next year we are planning on doubling our retail and production space, allowing us to serve even more customers in the store. It will also give us the capacity to expand other services such as QVC and custom baked goods for other cafes,” she said.