It's no secret that I love Boston everyday, but there's something about Boston in April. It feels like that's when the new year begins. The snow is melting (despite the fact that it's literally snowing sideways on April 1st) and Fenway Park opens and then we get the very best day in Boston: Patriot's Day.
I grew up in New Hampshire. When I was very little, my parents took me down a family gathering in Quincy. I remember from the back seat seeing the Boston skyline and falling immediately into head over heels love. Nothing where I lived looked like that. I became obsessed. My mom would take me down for trips the museums and the aquarium and I would count down the days till we would see that skyline again.
Many years ago, I moved here as a young adult. I have lived in and around the city for nearly 19 years now. I met my best friend in the balcony at the FleetCenter soon after moving down here. My closest friends are my cousins. One of the first things my best friend (that guy I met in the balcony at the FleetCenter) and I started as a tradition was Patriots Day. The idea of getting up early to head into Fenway Park and then watch the Marathon sounded like a crazy one. By 8:30 that morning and my second beer, I remember thinking - I could get used to this!
So as the years went by, we added to our little group. Both of us married, we had friends who came regularly. We had a crew. We met early at the Kenmore Dunks, got our coffees and got in line for the bar to open. We talked about the stuff you don't share on Facebook, we ate, we drank, we head to Fenway Park. For postgame, there are two routes - we go through Copley if the Bruins aren't playing at home game or we go around if the Bruins are home. Need to get the real estate at the Fours for pregame. Also, I always get a sunburn. That's the routine, I love it. It's always felt like Boston Appreciation Day to me.
So, it's no surprise that as we craft our recipes, I do it with Boston in my heart and soul. Our 617 Pack changes based on what's in season (for sports) and is one of my favorite things we offer. Even when I bake, I'm usually wearing something with Boston on it, because that's who I am.
I have had great jobs and experiences in this city. Friendships, family, a career, a change in attitude, and ultimately given me my dream. Owning Top Shelf Cookies and creating cookies for a living has been the greatest time of my life.
As Top Shelf Cookies continues to grow and evolve, it's so important me that this is where our roots will always be. We strive to bring Boston a better cookie and if we can keep doing that, I know I've done what I set out to do!
In the month of April we are giving back to our city with donations for the sales of our Left on Boylston cookie to the Martin Richard Foundation. You can buy yours online or come visit us at our pop up location at Boston Public Market through 4/15.
Last year, we were overwhelmed with orders for #OneBostonDay of cookies that went to people as ultimate acts of kindness. Seeing pictures of our cookies with Boston's Finest and Bravest were some of the proudest moments I've had as the owner of Top Shelf Cookies. We will again be donating 15% of our sales on April 15 - OneBostonDay to Martin Richard Foundation. I love the work they do in our community and specifically in Dorchester, where am proud to live and operate my business.
So, yes today as it snows, it's frustrating to live in Boston - but you know what...Monday is Opening Day at Fenway and two weeks later it's the Boston Marathon - which is our city's open house to the rest of the world. So, despite the weather - Spring is coming!
Enjoy Boston today and everyday!
Checking in with you all after our busiest holiday season ever, so busy it knocked me down for a couple weeks! From the very bottom of my heart, thank you all for your amazing support. Launching a business and turning your passion into a job is a very personal decision and when you take the time to write me a note, tweet me or tell me in person how much you enjoy our cookies - please know I take that to heart and it motivates me to keep going.
2016 was our second full year of business and it brought us much success. We were thrilled do have two pop ups at Boston Public Market that were a lot of fun. I'll tell you till I'm blue in the face, this is your best opportunity to shop local. There are so many amazing vendors at Boston Public Market, we love being a part of that vendor community when we get the chance.
We very much enjoyed our time our SoWa Sundays, Dewey Square Tuesdays and Stoneham Thursdays. Farmer's markets allow us to get out and talk to all of you. The feedback you give us (good and bad) is invaluable to us and we are so appreciative of this.
In 2016, we launched our Cookie of The Month Club! We send you a dozen cookies every month! There are a variety of options: month to month or you can prepay for 3, 6 or 12 month subscriptions! If you don't want surprises, you can subscribe (and save!) to any of our year round flavors as well. We have a family that loves Black & Gold cookies and gets four stacks sent monthly! Gift to others or yourself.
Like many of you, we are looking at ourselves and making some plans for 2017! We are thrilled to enter the year with Megan joining our staff regularly. Megan is an amazing baker and will balance out my need to put chocolate in all the cookies, she likes fruit and nuts. We have already worked together to create two cookies: Hopflake Holiday (over the holidays) and our newest cookie: The Next One Megan joining our team will allow us to develop more recipes and be more places this summer.
Another change we are working on for 2017 is adding our ingredients and major allergens to the website. I hope this will help anyone to purchase cookies that they maybe weren't sure about. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have about our ingredients, allergens or the space we use to produce our cookies. Please always reach out if you have questions (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Also in our plans for 2017 - store shelves! I know many of you have been asking. We are currently obtaining the correct labeling and licensing and we have stores that are looking to put us on the shelves soon. So, we will definitely be keeping you updated on that exciting news as it becomes available.
In 2017, we will continue to look for a permanent home if it makes sense for us. We love CommonWealth Kitchen, but we only want to move to our own space if it makes sense.
We look forward to growing and bringing you more flavors and being in more places in 2017.
As always we appreciate your support!
Today is #GivingTuesday - while we really have lots of great charitable organizations that we love to work with, I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about a non profit organization that has helped me and greatly impacted my life: CommonWealth Kitchen
When I set out to start Top Shelf Cookies, I knew what I didn't have:
1. Culinary experience
2. College Education
4. Space to work out of (or the money to build it out)
I knew what I had:
1. Really good cookies.
2. Work Ethic
3. Willingness to learn
4. A job that made me miserable
There was NO other option, Top Shelf Cookies would be my way out of my misery. My job making me so unhappy, I had become someone my friends didn't want to be around, I didn't even want to be around me. Times were dark, unless I was baking cookies.
I started to do some research on where I could bake. I wasn't exactly sure about CommonWealth Kitchen, sharing a space seemed like it would be a headache. If I was renting space from other business - that would have timing challenges.
I figured I would at least inquire. I got an email from Roz with tons of info and forms. I nearly hid under my desk! I remember thinking: "What's so scary about some forms?" You know what's scary about some forms? A lot, it's admitting to someone that you have this crazy ass dream that you want to follow. I kept thinking, at some point someone will stop me. My friends wholeheartly endorsed this idea, my very sensible father encouraged me - the only one standing in my way - ME!
So, when Roz sent a follow up email - I stopped talking myself out of this and started talking myself into it. I filled out the forms. I worked on a business plan, I figured out some details. Eventually, I would go on to meet the staff at CommonWealth Kitchen. Everyone was so helpful. Roz sent me to a great class geared toward food entrepreneurs. I sat down with the executive chef Brad and talked through some processes. I learned a lot, I still do. I look to Brad a lot - even still after more than two years.
Eventually, Top Shelf Cookies got started. There was a logo, there were orders, clients, vendors, bills. It was all so real, it wasn't just in my head, people knew about it and people seemed to like what I was doing.
Commonwealth Kitchen even gave me the ultimate part time job. I work in our commissary kitchen doing contract work with all kinds of cool clients. This job gives me the flexibility to run my business, while still bringing in some money to help support my household. The job itself, I have learned so much from. Working alongside our commissary manager, Seth - has been amazing. I have learned a lot about how to set up the kitchen for maximum success. Seth and the rest of the staff at CommonWealth Kitchen have been an amazing resource.
The community of entrepreneurs is amazing. It's great to have them as a resource when I'm trying to solve problems, select a vendor, find out if events are worth my time. My favorite part is to truly celebrate the wins with them and to truly commiserate the losses with them.
As Top Shelf Cookies has grown, CWK has worked alongside me to help me be successful. They've been patient with me through growing pains.
I'm a truly different person than I was more than 2 years ago. I don't let the little things get me down, I am happy, I am tired, I am a proud business owner.
While this is a really great feel good story - the point is pretty simple. I wouldn't have made it this far with $2500 and a few good cookie recipes on my own. Having CWK as my home base is the reason we still have a home base. I would have run out of money or confidence long ago.
CommonWealth Kitchen helps provide these opportunities to over 40 start up food businesses. It allows so many of us to find out if our idea works as a business, if this is the life we want for ourselves.
I'm beyond grateful that my job is baking cookies, it is incredibly hard and incredibly rewarding.
Please consider donating to CommonWealth Kitchen for #GivingTuesday - they are changing our local food system, while changing a lot of lives.
The Black and Gold cookie is our signature cookie. It's the cookie we started Top Shelf Cookies with. For those that don't know, I am a LONG time Boston Bruins season ticket holder. I would bring cookies to my pregame hangout The Fours and it became a routine. In the summer of 2010, I developed a recipe using a really cool black cocoa and made a dark, chewy cookie with peanut butter chips. We called it the Black & Gold. I brought this cookie every game to The Fours. The superstition grew. I remember when the Fours facebook page had a post asking if I was bringing the cookies for a much needed win. In the summer of 2011, I attended a duck boat parade with a big old silver cup. I decided then we would move forward with Top Shelf Cookies
We started production in CommonWealth Kitchen September 7 2014. I moved in a bunch of things I had bought with the help of my best friend at Restaurant Depot the day before. I had picked up a case of peanut butter chips from a distributor on Friday.
We moved everything in and got started baking. I was planning to make Hazel's Chocolate Chip cookies and Black & Golds for the Ribbon Cutting event at the kitchen the next day.
I powered through the chocolate chip dough, figured out dough placement for the larger sheet pans.
When it was time for the Black & Gold cookies, I opened up the case of chips, what would 25 pounds of peanut butter chips look like? Would they actually last me forever? I opened the box and gasped. They were mini chips. I didn't use mini chips when I was baking the Black & Gold cookies for superstition. I frantically texted my best friend. He told me to go and buy the right size. I was faced with three real hard truths as an "officially in business" business owner.
1. I was officially paying an hourly rent - which was happening right now.
2. I was also not moving at a fast enough pace and was concerned that I wouldn't be done before the kitchen was closed. I didn't want to be the jerk that held up closing the kitchen on my first day.
3. I had spent money on these chips. I couldn't fathom throwing them away.
I measured and dumped the chips into the dough and finished the bake. The cookies looked beautiful with all those mini chips in them. I loved the look of them, they tasted great. I moved on with mini chips because - I could find them with a distributor.
When I tell the story of the Black & Gold cookie, about how I made them faithfully every home game for the 2010-2011 Boston Bruins season, how this superstition led to me starting Top Shelf Cookies, I always feel of twinge of sadness knowing the Bruins have not made the playoffs since our formal launch.
So, the Bruins got a little bigger and stronger....and we are back to using bigger chips. If the Bruins don't make the playoffs, I don't know what to say about that, at least the cookie is great even if the Bruins aren't playing in the late spring.