Carolyn and Gary Walter of Salinas talk about their oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough product.
Frozen cookie dough hits Watsonville shelves
WATSONVILLE — Six years ago, Carolyn and Gary Walter went after Carolyn’s dream of creating a business in the kitchen.
From their home in Salinas, sales took off; and now Carolyn’s Cookies are sold in several local markets — including Watsonville.
“I started the business six years ago because it’s a passion,” Carolyn Walter said. “This is a family recipe and it was so good that when we would make it, everyone wanted the recipe — which we never gave out thank goodness.”
Inspired by her mother, Carolyn had already been making cookies, cakes and pies and bread all from scratch when she read a book, “Linchpin.” The cookies, in particular, were a big hit.
“It’s really a great chocolate chip cookie recipe,” she said. “I asked Gary, I said I would like to start a business.”
They penciled it out, and got to work. The result of this is slow and steady progress.
It is a family effort, with Carolyn’s mom coming to help with the cookie dough in the beginning, and Gary being the entrepreneur. But the product itself is unique in that she sells not cookies — but cookie dough.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Carolyn said. “But we got into a few local grocery stores and always did farmers markets.”
Keeping everything from scratch is a big deal to the Walters, and putting out thousands of cookies from one facility is no small task either.
“We have a facility that makes the product and freezes the product for us, packages it, and then our distributors come and pick up at the facility in their freezer trucks,” Gary Walter said. “We have three distribution companies we work with and they deliver to all the grocery stores our product are in.”
But this is just production.
Every morning, Carolyn Walter loads the car up with cookie dough samples to make up samples in the stores they sell at.
“I bring my oven, bring frozen dough, and the whole grocery store smells good,” Carolyn Walter said. “They love trying them and it helps to sell the product.”
One place they have recently expanded to is Watsonville.
“I just got into the local Safeway in Watsonville,” Carolyn Walter said. “They just opened up their arms to me, they love my product and always make me feel welcome.”
Now they are hoping to get into more stores, eventually saturating Northern California and get their product down to Southern California. At present, their facility can handle demand, but they are focusing on staying local.
Producing the frozen cookie dough in Castroville requires that they only move the product so far. Overnight shipping being what it is, it is not economical to expand out of state.
But this has not stopped at least one gentleman from paying extra to ship them to Colorado.
“It’s a frozen product, and it needs to stay frozen,” Gary Walter said. “He pays more for the shipping than he does for the cookies, but he says it’s worth every penny.”
And, while family recipe came from her sister, the whole family is very supportive, even thrilled. The family support is only surpassed by customer’s initial reactions.
“When I do my demos in the grocery store, when they take that first bite it’s ‘oh my God, this is so good, this is addictive,’” Carolyn Walter said. “They call it wicked good, they even call me evil.”
But it’s not just the taste — it’s also the convenience.
“People love the concept that you can have these in the freezer and can take them out and bake just one or two and have a cookie with your coffee in the morning,” Carolyn Walter said.
But even as sales begin to take off, as the facility continues to pump out the thousands of cookies a day required, and their business continues to grow, they said they want to stay focused on quality and community.
“Our goal at this point is to continue in Northern California, and perhaps next year movie into Southern California, and as things continue to grow, maybe move eastward,” Gary Walter said. “We are both hard workers, everything we do — we employ local people, we work with local people. The bottom line is we believe in putting out a good product at a fair price. We want to take care of the community that we are involved in.”
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