It’s a story we can all relate to: Jennifer Baumgartner and her mother, Wendy, were at a family gathering in September 2012, commiserating about their jobs. Wendy was a longtime employee of a restaurant in The Mirage, while Jennifer was doing accounting for a construction company. It’s not that they were unhappy, but like so many of us, they wanted something more fulfilling.
“We were just throwing ideas out there,” Jennifer recalls. “Everybody was coming out with things. And I said, ‘What if we did something called The Cookie Bar and named all the cookies after cocktail drinks?’”
Wendy took the brainstorming a step further. “She said, ‘What if we actually put alcohol in the cookies?’” Jennifer continues.
Cookies and booze. Honestly, what more can you ask for? The pair began with several old family recipes for baked goods, adding just a touch of spirits to each. They catered parties at first, before moving on to First Friday and other festivals. It remained a part-time labor of love for about a year, until Jennifer began to research crowdfunding.
“We were at the point where we were struggling financially,” she explains. “And I had heard about crowdfunding from a couple of people at events. So I was researching different companies, and I Googled ‘crowdfunding contests’ just to see if there were any contests that anybody was running. And sure enough, Fundable had just posted something.”
Neither Jennifer nor Wendy had ever heard of the company. But they called on family members who work at a local TV station to put together a video promoting their business. Despite the two-day deadline, they got it done, and were amazed when it garnered more than $10,000 and won the contest.
The ladies were able to quit their day jobs last fall and open a retail outlet on East Flamingo Road. Working seven days a week, the two of them cook up recipes such as Drunk Pumpkin Punch (that would be rum-infused walnut cookies with rum cream-cheese frosting), coconut rum-infused piña colada cookies and vodka-laced Rice Krispies treats, by hand. They sell them at a small kiosk next door to the Cannery Village Pub.
With just a few tablespoons of alcohol per item, they aren’t likely to give their neighbor much competition among serious boozers. You’ll likely slip into a diabetic coma before you catch a buzz. But if even a touch of alcohol makes you uncomfortable, the ladies also offer nonalcoholic treats.
“It’s awful, we’ve gained so much weight,” Wendy laughs. “It’s almost like I have to have a bite of something before I go to bed!” And as someone who devoured a bag of their Booze Munch (puffed corn coated in rum, butter and brown sugar) within minutes of opening it, I can relate. When you’re enjoying snacks this good, calories are the furthest thing from your mind.
So what’s next for these entrepreneurs?
“I just want to have more little kiosks around town with our cookies,” Jennifer says. “And we’re talking about maybe doing vending machines in bars.”
Her mother also suggests offering frozen versions of their chocolate-chip cookie—an alcohol-free item, which has become their most popular treat. But in the end, Wendy says, “It really is one cookie at a time.”