From auto parts to "craft" cookies, Windsor man finds tasty new start amid pan-demic

·3 min read

When the year began, Brent Phillips never imagined he'd be opening his dream cookie business in the middle of a pandemic. But after he was laid off from an auto parts factory, he decided to to open the business of his dreams, a "craft" cookie shop in downtown Windsor.

"[How long have I wanted to] own my own business? Probably my whole life," Phillips said.

After his layoff, Phillips began baking cookies for friends and family who encouraged him to start up a business. He started out renting a commercial kitchen and doing deliveries. It was successful enough that in October, he opened a storefront in downtown Windsor.

Cookie Bar/Facebook
Cookie Bar/Facebook

"Starting any business I think is scary," he said.

When things aren't in lockdown, Phillips works behind the counter two days a week and keeps up the deliveries on the other days. At some point he'd like to expand hours and bring on staff.

"Right now we're only a one-man-show, so we're still a little limited," said Anna Eschuk, Phillips fiancee. She helps out at the shop with marketing, when she's not doing her day job.

At $5 each, the cookies are more expensive than your average cookie but each cookie weighs a quarter pound.

"... or more, quite a bit more often," Eschuk said.

The name of the shop "Cookie Bar" is paying homage to the couple's love for craft beer. He hopes to one day have a license to sell different brews "on tap" as well as different cookies.

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

"We do have that love for that brewery feel," Eschuk said.

"We think it's a really successful model to have like your classic, your staples, your tried and trues that are great but also having that ability to rotate -- to have your brewer, your baker experiment in the back to see if there's new things that can become popular."

Eschuk says Phillips worked on his chocolate chip cookie recipe for months, one cookie at a time. Another cookie he offers is called a PJ Sammy, based on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"That's the first cookie he kind of thought there was a big miss on, he had never tried a cookie based on a peanut butter and jelly which is a love of a lot of people," Eschuk said.

There are also rotating cookies like one for Mother's day, "a chocolate chocolate chocolate which was called 'Yo Mama'," Eschuk said.

Pinching pennies

Eschuk said they saved every penny they could when starting out baking at the commercial kitchen which allowed them to open the storefront in downtown.

"The whole place was gutted, there was not even floors down," Eschuk said. "My nights and his days, we just did everything ourselves with the help of his step dad and his dad and a couple of friends here and there and his brother."

Eschuk said they are saving again in the hopes of expanding the business.

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

"We would love to ship Ontario-wide eventually because we've tasted other cookies that do and we think we definitely can compete."

Phillips said there has been challenges getting the shop up and running and Eschuk said opening the shop is an experiment, but, she adds, there is a growing trend for craft cookies across the country.

"I am always the one in the back, egging on Brent, like, don't worry, it'll be fine," she said.

Phillips has no plans on going back to the factory any time soon, he said he's feeling optimistic about the business.

"Take a shot, in this case it worked out," he said.