Cookie biz started as a hobby

[attach]6782[/attach]Robyn Coffey has been baking cookies since she was 13 years old but didn’t turn the hobby into a business until after having children.

“I wanted to do something I could do at home with my kids when they were little,” Coffey says. “Just a little part time job so I started baking the chocolate chip cookie with toffee and brought it to my first store.”

After several years baking out of her home, Robyn’s Cookies, which has grown to wholesale to places like Pusateri’s, Summerhill Market and Bruno’s Fine Foods, opened to the public in 2007 across the street from the Ranleigh exit of Lawrence Station at the end of a short pathway.

“We’re hard to find but worth the effort,” she says.

Coffee worked alone for three years before bringing in fellow home baker and high school friend Melinda Robertson, who is now her business partner, to help.

In addition to cookies like the junk in the trunk (shortbread cookies with Smarties and nut free chocolate bars), chewy gingerbread, brownies and sugar cookies, the store also has more savoury options including a breakfast cookie and the gypsy, which is made with quinoa and oatmeal.

“There’s nothing in here that’s baked using ingredients from a science lab,” she says. “We believe in cream and butter and wholesome products so our ingredients are top of the line, no lard, we don’t use any vegetable shortening or anything like that.”

[attach]6783[/attach]The store is a family affair with both Coffey and Robertson’s daughters work at the store during the weekend. It also hosts birthday parties where kids can decorate and keep cookies as loot bags.

“This place is very magical in that it collects people especially on a Friday afternoon. People wander in and start chatting with us and our customers have become our family,” Coffey says. “We know everything about everybody’s marriage, everybody’s life and it’s a comfortable place for people to come in and have a warm cookie. We can tell if they’re having a bad day. We’ll make them a cup of tea. We chat for a bit, it’s that kind of place.”

As for her favourite cookie, Coffey’s pick is Robertson’s stilton, walnut and rosemary shortbread, which she enjoys with some wine, she says, adding she believes Robertson’s top choice is the cowboy, a peanut butter cookie with pretzels, potato chips and chunks of chocolate.

While their cookies sell for $10 a bag, they also sell two pounds of cookie dough for $12.

“You should see all the dough we sell during Christmas when people have those cookie exchanges,” Coffey says.

“There’s even men who order for their wives — don’t make them too pretty, trying to pass them off as their own,” Robertson adds.

During the summer they have a courtyard area full of flowers and window boxes for people to enjoy their goods outside and also have a shop that sells their goods in Muskoka for those spending time at cottages.

The best thing about being part of the neighbourhood is the customers who have been very supportive over the years, Coffey says.

“I think part of the charm and the success is that it is what it is — it’s just two women who love to bake and eat that are making yummy cookies. It’s not this huge corporation. It’s not this huge business,” Coffey says. “A couple of days ago I was like Melinda don’t come in, there’s no customers, it’s pouring rain, and in she comes because she misses the smell and misses baking cookies, we both just kind of love to be here.”