What looked bleak when the coronavirus pandemic first swept the country had a sweet silver lining for Barbee Cookies.
“We’ve had only one wedding since the virus hit, and two large companies who were spending thousands a month are gone, canceled until further notice,” said Kat Graham, who, with business partner Kelli Stacy, recently celebrated their 10th anniversary operating Barbee Cookies. “They were sending cookies and cookie cakes to reward employees for work anniversaries and the like.”
Those setbacks have been at least partially offset by significant growth in other parts of the business.
“We looked at the numbers and saw that our online sales have increased 82% from 2019 to 2020,” Graham said. “Companies are calling from all over the country. Some with employees working from home are sending cookies with messages like, ‘We appreciate what you do. We know it isn’t easy.’
“The first month of the pandemic we also couldn’t keep our decorating kits in the store. Almost as fast as it started, it abruptly ended. The only thing I can figure is students were doing school from home and maybe parents just didn’t want to have another project.
“We’ve also started using Grubhub and DoorDash for some deliveries for the first time, and that has increased our business by almost 8%.”
In-store sales were brisk when we visited recently. One man said he had just come from a difficult business meeting and needed to treat himself to a cookie. Several parents with young children showed up for an afternoon cookie outing.
They had plenty of choices. The display cases were filled with standards such as oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle and chocolate chip, in addition to an array of colorfully decorated iced sugar cookies.
“One of our newest cookies is the Salty Kelli with oatmeal, cornflakes and sea salt,” Graham said. “I have one of my own called Kat’s Graham S’mores.”
Another crowd favorite is Hallee’s Heavenly Cinnamon Roll cookie, a soft cookie that tastes much like a traditional cinnamon roll.
Hallee is Graham’s daughter and was only 15 years old when Barbee Cookies was launched at 103rd Street and Memorial Drive next to Michael V’s restaurant. Not only did she come up with the cinnamon roll cookie when the store opened, she also was instrumental in developing such cookies as double chocolate, cranberry pecan shortbread and white chocolate shortbread, among others.
“She was very talented from the beginning,” Graham said.
Four gluten-free cookies — chocolate chip, triple chocolate, iced sugar and cinnamon roll — were available the day we visited.
“Gluten-free has really grown in popularity,” Graham said. “We have 125 shapes for our iced sugar cookies, and we can use all of those shapes for gluten-free, too. We make them in our gluten-free room that has its own equipment and supplies.”
Most cookies range from $2 to $4.
Customers might also want to check out a little basket on the counter that holds day-old cookies for half price. Nothing is wrong with a day-old cookie.
Barbee Cookies also has some gift items displayed around the store. They include decorative coffee cups, bowls, platters, trays, cookie cutters and greeting cards.
For those who choose to dine inside, the store has a few tables and chairs, plus a wall banquette with four wood-topped tables. A pretty patio area with three large concrete tables faces south.
Barbee Cookies moved to its current location five years ago when it outgrew its original space. Three years ago, a small shop was added in the Atlas Life building downtown. The downtown store has been temporarily closed since April.
“Even with the downtown store closed for now, we still are on track to reach our goals this year,” Graham said. “We are counting our blessings.”
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Scott Cherry 918-581-8463
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