The sweetest homecoming: Founder of Craig's Cookies opens shop in St. John's
Owner Craig Pike, originally from St. John's, started selling cookies for a laugh in 2013
Craig's Cookies may be a business success story in Toronto, but its roots are in Newfoundland and Labrador.
And now, Craig Pike has opened his sixth location — this one in his hometown of St. John's, with a brand new shop on Duckworth Street in the heart of the city's downtown.
Pike says his business had humble beginnings.
"Making cookies at home in my oven, 12 cookies at a time, every 10 minutes," Pike told CBC News.
That was back in 2013, when Pike lived and worked as an actor and musician in Toronto, and was looking for a way to pay bills during a month without work.
"I thought, hey, I'd sell cookies and deliver them on my bike to my friends," said Pike.
"Between the jigs and the reels, by the end of the month, I'd sold 200 dozen cookies just from marketing on Instagram and Facebook for a laugh."
Pike says basing his business around chocolate chip cookies was a "no-brainer" — going by his mother's recipe, they had always been a crowd-pleaser and Pike's go-to for potlucks.
But Pike's added a twist to your usual plain chocolate chip cookies by stuffing them with other treats.
"I was at the grocery store in Toronto and Pop-Tarts were on sale, so I thought, 'Hey, maybe we'll put a Pop-Tart in a cookie,'" said Pike.
"It worked out, and then I thought, 'Well, maybe you can put anything in a cookie.'"
More than 100 types of cookies
Five years later, in 2018, Pike opened his first store in Toronto.
Fast-forward another three years, and Pike has increased the number of his stores to six. While he might not literally put "anything" in a cookie, his stores offer more than 100 different cookie stuffing flavours.
As an homage to Pike's home province, the new St. John's location will offer a few that you can't get at any other location — like Jam-Jams and Caramel Logs.
WATCH | Craig Pike tells CBC's Carolyn Stokes about his nan's home and his Newfoundland upbringing inspired the success of Craig's Cookies:
Pike says his Newfoundland origin also plays an important role in the interior design of Craig's Cookies. The shops feature hardwood floors, much like the one Pike's grandmother used to have. Blue tiles are meant to represent the Atlantic Ocean.
"I wanted to create a space where everybody feels welcome," said Pike.
"So up in Toronto, everybody that comes in feels like they're coming to my nan's home out in Kilbride."
Hourly pay well above minimum wage
He has some selfish reasons for opening a store in his hometown, he says, as it allows him to visit the province more often.
"It's not about making money, it's not about any of those other things that businesspeople usually like. It's about making an environment where people want to come in," said Pike.
"They feel like they're coming home."
According to Pike, paying his staff a living wage is an important part of that — hourly pay at Craig's Cookies starts at $17. The minimum wage in Newfoundland and Labrador is $12.75 per hour.
Whether it was the atmosphere or the wide array of flavours, Craig's Cookies flourished while other businesses were struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since March 2020, says Pike, his business has grown by 40 per cent. Four locations opened in the last year alone.
"I think everybody is starving, pardon the pun, for something really, really comforting, something nostalgic and a cookie is that," said Pike.
"There's something that makes us just feel really good about ourselves when we have a cookie."
Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
With files from Carolyn Stokes
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