Romancing The Scone

Homegrown shortbread and scone baker Amy Goetz makes her mark with sugar, spice, and everything nice

Bramblewood Cottage


Have you had enough romance in your life this week? If not, consider this:

A baker's life: With a little help from local-producer-friendly Kowalski's, Amy Goetz's scones are on store shelves near you
Allen Beaulieu
A baker's life: With a little help from local-producer-friendly Kowalski's, Amy Goetz's scones are on store shelves near you

Four generations ago, near the chill Nova Scotia coast, in a grand, rich house called Briar Dean there lived a young and headstrong girl, a girl with the strong eyes and the regal beauty of the fierce Scots pioneers, from whom she was descended. This girl, this beautiful girl, was the privileged daughter of a member of the Canadian parliament, and she led the sort of life in which any time she wanted she could plop down among the silks and brocades and eat as many buttery shortbread cookies and flaky scones as she could stuff into her pretty mouth. Then she would stand at the window and watch the cold northern rain running in chill veins down the glass. She would stand there at the window and look at the scrubby trees quivering in the constant Atlantic wind and she would think that more than anything, more than anything in the world, she didn't want to be a rich girl in a beautiful house, she wanted to be a nurse in America.

So she fell in love, and married a paint salesman, and never looked back. Because that is what we do in America, we never look back. Except sometimes, on the weekends, when we think we might like to have some cookies. On the weekends, when Nana Kirk, as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren would come to call her, thought she might like to have some cookies, she would make the rich Scottish shortbreads and buttery scones of her wealthy Scots-Canadian childhood, and everyone liked them very much. They were undeniably excellent cookies. Even if you weren't a nurse or a paint salesman or a member of the Canadian parliament with trees trembling in the Atlantic wind, these were buttery, sturdy treats, and they made a mind go quiet and happy. Sadly, eventually, like most everyone, Nana Kirk died.

Later, she had a great-grandchild. This great-granddaughter grew up in Minnesota, and she was named Amy Goetz, and she was tall and beautiful, with strong blue eyes and a musical nature. In fact, she was so musical that she left Minnesota for Boston where she got a master's degree in music education, and sang Gilbert and Sullivan on the stage. Yet, like so many musical young women, she eventually decided that she didn't want to spend the rest of her life slugging it out with other musical young women, and thought she might do something else with her life. So she and her mother got together and thought and thought, and eventually they thought, Well, what about Nana Kirk's shortbread? And what about Nana Kirk's scones?

So Amy got out her little five-quart KitchenAid and got to work. She found a single coffee shop in St. Paul to sell her shortbread and scones. Then she found another. And another. She wanted to name her company after her Nana Kirk, whom she had never even met, but thought that Briar Dean didn't make too much sense on a package, so she modified it to the friendlier Bramblewood Cottage. Soon her Bramblewood Cottage shortbread cookies were in a number of stores and coffee shops, and she was so busy with her little mixer that she forgot to mention to anyone that she was about to have a baby, and as she was on her way to the hospital she called her coffee shops and said, "I'm sorry, I won't be delivering any cookies for a few days."

Because there are some parts of starting up a small business that aren't like a fairy tale at all. Five days later, all the coffee shops called up to say, "Where are our scones? Where are our cookies? Our customers are crying for their cookies." So Amy got up and strapped her little baby to her back and started up her little mixer. Her little girl, popularly known as G-Bug, her little girl's first phrase would be, "Momma bakes."

Time passed. Soon Amy and Bramblewood Cottage got a commercial kitchen, and soon she was selling her cookies at the downtown Minneapolis Farmers' Market on Thursdays, and at the St. Paul Farmers' Market on weekends. She came up with all sorts of creative new flavors for her shortbread cookies, like lavender-ginger, rosemary, and orange-chocolate chip. Her Bramblewood Cottage shortbread began to get picked up by the most prestigious markets in the Twin Cities, in places like Surdyk's Cheese Shop, Cooks of Crocus Hill, and the Bibelot Shops. It all looked very rosy. Soon she was even sold in the large Kowalski's Market, where they don't order merely five or six packages of cookies at a time, but whole entire cases.

Suddenly: Kablooey! Life got to looking a whole lot less like a fairy tale. With all the pressures of a new business and young family, Amy and her husband were headed for a divorce. And, just as divorces always do, this divorce created all sorts of cash-flow troubles. Amy had to give up her commercial kitchen. She took a job teaching. She didn't have any time to bake, or drive her cookies around, or anything. Bramblewood Cottage, the shortbread cookies, the scones, the dream, the legacy of Nana Kirk, the everything, appeared to be dead.

Next Page »