The flavor and texture of a cookie, delivered in a mini-cupcake shape -- that’s the idea that behind the Cookie Cups, a bakery that’s about to open a storefront in Wayzata.
Owner Nicole Bandklayder is an unlikely bakery owner. Her professional background includes six years in New York City working in marketing, event planning, and media.
But two and a half years ago, she found herself making cookie dough at her home kitchen in Plymouth with no baking sheet on hand. She substituted a mini-cupcake pan and baked the treats in paper liners. Thus, cookie cups were born.
“Everybody I served them to loved them, so I started experimenting with different flavors,” she says. Those flavors have gone from the standard chocolate chip and fudge brownie to more exotic flavors like red velvet chip, strawberry shortcake, and apple pie.
Given the cups’ popularity at family gatherings, Bandklayder designed a logo and a website, then took her treats to farmers markets and festivals. Now, she caters holiday parties, birthday parties, and weddings, and her shop is set to open around the first of February.
“Think of it as the cookies and milk of Starbucks but also this concept store where everything is in the shape of a cupcake,” she says. “It’s a little kooky, a little quirky.”
The brick-and-mortar move has inspired her to expand her line to include both savory and sweet offerings, adding Mac & Cheese Cups, Meat & Potato Cups, and Mom’s Cornbread Cups. “Everything is very winter-based and comfort food,” she says. The store will offer seasonal flavors as well.
As for beverages, the Cookie Cups will sell its own line of coffee in addition to hot chocolate and “signature steamers” in chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.
Bright pink has been her signature color at farmers markets, but she’s incorporating a purple-magenta hue into the store’s aesthetic as well. A long pink wall, purple-magenta stools and chairs, and green, teal, and pink menus make for a playful color scheme. She also repeats the cartoony cookie cup icon throughout the design. “A fancy but fast atmosphere” is how she describes the bakery, which will seat 15 indoors and more outdoors in summer.
“Having an actual store location and a home for this brand will bring a lot of current customers back in and create a space for new customers and wedding tastings and things like that. I am excited to grow the catering side of this a little bit more.”
Bandklayder, who runs her own PR and social media marketing firm in addition to the bakery, found her marketing skills essential in establishing the bakery brand. The Cookie Cups has appeared on Twin Cities Live, WCCO, and Fox 9; the company also got a mention in Forbes. “My prior skill set has really come in handy. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know if I’d be able to open a store. I don’t know if I’d have the visibility that I have,” she says.
She did a lot of market research along the way, too. “I wanted to make sure there was nothing out there like this,” she says. There isn’t. While the Twin Cities boasts several cupcake-centric ventures, there aren’t many dedicated cookie-and-milk operations.
“From testing at different farmers markets and festivals, talking to customers, and doing my own research, it was not hard to see that there’s a need for something like this,” Bandklayder says. “And people just love it. I always get positive reactions about the concept.” (So positive, in fact, that she’s had to turn one growth offering down. QVC was interested in bringing the Cookie Cups on-air, but Bandklayder, who’s been a mostly one-woman operation throughout the brand’s lifespan, didn’t have the staff to fulfill that kind of volume.)
A storefront seemed more feasible, so during the 2016 holiday season, she launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the storefront. It didn’t do quite as well as she’d hoped, though she raised over $5,000, which helped with the purchase of the appliances. “At the end of the day, I really ended up funding this myself through working [in PR] and selling cookies,” she says.
She found a 700-square-foot storefront space, formerly an office, located near the heavily trafficked Highway 15 at the midpoint between Wayzata, Excelsior, and Mound. The high visibility and affordable price lured her in. Bandklayder has spent the past six months building out a kitchen and installing plumbing and electric.
The tentative opening date is February 1 -- and she already has plans to open a second location, ideally in Maple Grove.
The Cookie Cups
3412 Shoreline Drive, Wayzata; 917-690-6161