Crumbl Cookies, a gourmet bakery, opened on May 21 in Oak Creek and the owner, Wes Henrie, has been spending 20 hours in the shop baking thousands of cookies to keep up with demand.
“It’s been a pretty nutso few weeks between our opening and Memorial Day,” Henrie said.
Prior to flying through the kitchen, Henrie worked for Delta Airlines. Three years ago, he was introduced to Crumbl and loved the business concept of a warm, freshly baked cookie.
“I’m a fairly health-conscious guy but I was purchasing Crumbl every week as a weekly splurge,” he said.
Friends prompted Henrie to move to the state last year.
“I thought this concept of cookies would pair well with cheese and beer,” he said.
I wasn’t wrong. The Oak Creek location is the fourth Crumbl Cookies to open in Wisconsin in 2021. The first location opened in Sun Prairie in January. A Madison location opened in February and a month later a Delafield location opened.
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The Oak Creek store is at 160 W Town Square Way, Suite 400. There are plans to open between seven and 10 more locations in the state with Appleton, Pleasant Prairie/Kenosha and Cedarburg under consideration.
“We usually have a line out the door,” Henrie said of the Oak Creek location, which is open 8 am to 10 pm on weekdays and until midnight Friday and Saturday. “It has been thousands and thousands of cookies a day.”
Crumble sells cookies baked fresh daily. Patrons can watch the baking process from the first cracked egg to the final bake. Mixers holding 60 quarts make a couple hundred cookies at a time. The Oak Creek location is averaging between 6,000 and 7,000 cookies sold each day, Henrie said.
In addition to the freshly baked offerings, there are a few chilled cookies on the menu including key lime pie, pumpkin pie and raspberry cheesecake. All the cookies weigh between five and seven ounces. They’re about four inches across and Henrie described them as “bigger than a quarter-pounder at McDonald’s.”
A single cookie costs $3.48. Crumbl also offers packs of cookies, with four for $10.98 and a party pack of 12 for $27.58.
“Each cookie could serve two people,” Henrie said. “A four-pack will serve a family.”
Henrie’s favorite cookie used to be the Oreo flavor but he’s developed a taste for the blueberry crumb cake, which he said tastes like a blueberry muffin. The company is constantly changing which cookies are offered each week; they release the week’s cookie flavors on social media each Sunday night. Henrie said online orders often come in shortly after the flavors of the week are announced.
Starting cookie shops during COVID-19
“It’s been a little nerve-racking to say the least,” Henrie said of the struggles operating a food-based business during a pandemic. He said he wanted to bring people some good news. As for the naysayers, most of them ate their words after trying a Crumbl cookie.
“Some thought it was nuts to open a cookie shop in a pandemic,” he said. “They say they get it after they try the cookies. It’s the good news, the light at the end of the tunnel.”
One of the biggest issues right now is finding labor to support the customer demand, Henrie said. Each new location hires between 50 and 60 employees.
“We create a place to work that is fun, fast-paced and energized,” he said, adding that many employees refer friends and family. The average employee works about 30 hours each week. Crumbl does employ full-time managers and bakers which are about 40% of the workforce.
“As the months progress the average store comes down to 40 employees,” Henrie said. “Some go to college, school and other obligations change their availability.”
More than cookies?
Increasingly, more customers are asking for gluten-free cookies. However, Henrie said it’s challenging with an open bakery concept.
“It’s nearly impossible with how our bakery is constructed due to possible issues with cross-contamination,” he said.
Crumbl has also been churning the idea of offering ice cream — another common request from patrons.
“We tried to incorporate cookies into the ice cream but there were manufacturing and logistical issues,” Henrie said. “Customers seem to want that, especially in summer, but cookies are our sweet spot and strength.”
Contact Erik S. Hanley at (262) 875-9467 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ES_Hanley.