For Susan Schmitt, life isn’t so much like a box of chocolates as it is like a cookie jar. In fact, she likes to say that there’s a cookie for every occasion.
“That’s my slogan!” she says as she proudly shows off her new cookie retail and baking space, which she opened last month at 196 Danbury Road, at the rear of the building. Though she has been operating her custom-decorated cookie business, The Painted Cookie, for the last seven years as a home-based business, she’s thrilled to finally have a brick-and-mortar location for lots of reasons.
Taking the leap from running a home-based business to opening a retail store-slash-professional kitchen definitely has been a defining moment.
“Before when I was paying for time in a commercial kitchen, I was at their mercy, or I couldn’t advertise for retail working out of my house. Finding space was really hard, especially with the rents around here, but I couldn’t have done it without [landlord] Peter Hastings, Jr., who was willing to divide the space in half and sign a three year lease.”
Not only does she now have her own kitchen and baking space, she’ll be able to strengthen her online business even more thanks to being able to better incorporate her shipping operations. Plus, she’s excited at the opportunity she now has to do walk-in retail business—which already has been very promising.
Schmitt sold out of Super Bowl-themed cookies faster than she expected last week, so she only had groundhog shaped cookies left to sell.
“I’m trying to figure out how many cookies to keep in stock. I’m really figuring out how to grow into this space.”
Now she’s got more space to house her tools of the trade—a projector to help make the images she paints, frosts and sculpts on her cookies perfect; an edible printer, for printing things like baby pictures right onto the cookies); and a cookie cutter to match just about anything a customer can dream up—sometimes even a custom designed one.
“I just did these driver’s license cookies for my son, who turned 16, with his picture on it, which were really great. I can make anything,” Schmitt said. Looking at her website portfolio, there are cookies shaped and decorated to look exactly like Sponge Bob, a pirate skull-and-crossbones, and a bag of golf clubs, among many, many others. It’s clear Schmitt delivers on what she promises.
“Depending on the design, it takes about three to four days to make a cookie, depending on how elaborate the design is. People can email their invitations to me, and I can take an element off of that. And I have over 750 cookie cutters—there’s a cutter company I work with and over the last three or four years, we’ve collaborated on a lot of new cutters.”
Schmitt is usually closed on Mondays, reserving that day to bake. “I’m here working, but during the week people can come on in.”
She is still taking limited custom order for Valentine’s Day, but said she really needs to hear from interested customers before Monday, Feb. 11. She plans to have some designs set aside for anyone who leaves looking for sweet treats to the last minute.
The Painted Cookie is also going to be open this coming Sunday and Monday for Valentine’s Day, for walk-ins and custom orders, even though those are days she’s typically closed. Regularly, the shop opens at 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturday.
When it’s not a special holiday, she keeps busy year round with the custom orders for local customers as well as orders she’ll ship. “The farthest I’ve shipped cookies to is Bahrain. I make sure the cookies get there in one piece.”
Customized favors start at $3.75 per cookie (wrapped) but the costs go up depending on how intricate and complicated they are to make. Non-customized platter cookies vary in cost between $30 and $36 per dozen cookies. Schmitt makes sugar cookie and chocolate cookie bases and then decorates based on what she’s designing.
“I love doing this. It’s always something different. I feel like I can come in and color every day. I love the challenge and I love the smiles on kids’ faces—they just love seeing their names on cookies. There’s just something special about it.”