Cathy Pemberton Interview
(Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen)

Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen hasn’t been in business all that long, but the rave reviews are coming in!

Syracuse-based cookie bakery, owner Cathy Pemberton has made cookies for the Thousand Islands Harbor Hotel in Clayton, New York, sold her cookies at the Syracuse Bluesfest, sold her cookies at the Landmark Theaters Classic Christmas movie series and the Cirque de Holidaze production in downtown Syracuse, and provided cookies for Jerry Seinfeld’s dressing room during his performance at the Landmark Theater!

Cathy Pemberton talked to us about her unique cookies.

Q - You were under a tent at the New York State fair last year.
A - Yes. Taste of New York.

Q - You only get a day under the tent don’t you?
A - Yes. It’s part of Gov. Cuomo’s plan to feature New York products.

Q - Did that make a big difference in your sales?
A - It made a big difference. I sold in one day what I normally sell in a weekend at some of the weekends shows. It helped me to gear up and organize for something that big because really it’s just me in the business. My kids came and helped me get everything ready to go so; it was great on that standpoint. I did get repeat business from a lot of people that placed orders. There were a lot of people who asked where they could find my cookies afterwards. Plus, I got a relationship with the store that sells inside and she bought ninety packs of cookies. So, when I left she sold an additional pack of ninety cookies for me for the remainder of the fair which was really cool.

Q - You started your business when?
A - 2013. I started it in June 2013.

Q - So what were you doing before?
A - I still work part time for the Syracuse city school district. I work in their afterschool program. I’m an assistant manager in the afterschool program. So, at that time, that’s what I was doing. I thought it would be nice to have something that was just mine, the business of my own.

Q - I’m guessing that you would bring cookies into work and someone said to you, you should think about opening your own bakery. Is that in fact what happened?
A - No. I actually just sat down and thought of all the things I was good at doing and baking and cooking are some of the things that I enjoy and that I’m good at. I needed something that I could start on a shoestring because I didn’t have any money to start the business. I used my grocery money to start it. So, I ate a lot less, (laughs), for a while there. That’s really how it started. Cookies are simple and you can have a lot of variety and so I worked for about three months on the recipes getting everything ready. So, basically that’s how I started it.

Q - You don’t have a brick-and-mortar store do you?
A - No, not yet. That’s my goal. In my business plan now I’m working with the Small Business Association and the Small Business Development Center to get my business plan together and then I’m going to see about getting a business loan and getting a store in downtown Syracuse.

Q - Since you don’t have your own store, you probably use the services of a commercial kitchen to bake your cookies?
A - Yes. I have commissary kitchen. It’s Fairmont Community Church. I use that. And I’m also licensed to bake at home. I have a Home Processor’s License.

Q - Since you have your own website , do you sell your cookies all over the US?
A - I sell them mostly in New York and then the United States. I’ve had a couple orders from Puerto Rico, and that’s it. Mostly my website, I sell for people who have either seen me at a show and bought cookies from me at a show and they live somewhere else in the country and they want more or they used to live in Syracuse and they have children that still live in Syracuse and they order from me for a local delivery in Syracuse. That’s always interesting. Since it’s just me I really don’t have time to develop the online business as much as I would like to. That just kind of stands on its own. I try to update it when I can.

Q - You use organic butter, organic eggs unbleached flour, all natural ingredients and your cookies are gluten-free. That’s what probably separates your cookies from every one of your competitors, correct?
A - Oh, absolutely. Not all of my cookies are gluten-free. I have a whole line of gluten-free.

Q - How did you come up with the idea to go in that direction?
A - Because it really makes the best tasting cookie. There’s such a difference between organic butter and regular butter and organic eggs and regular eggs. It just really makes a better tasting cookie. So, even though it cost me more it’s definitely worth it to do. I have to keep the price competitive when I sell but, it just makes all the difference.

Q - Are you really making cookies every week for the Thousand Islands Harbor Hotel?
A - No. It’s when they have sales calls. They will order cookies to take on their sales calls. They’ll go to say an Upstate Hospital or they’ve gone to a number of places in Canada or Western, New York. They’ll order cookies and I’ll take them on the sales calls. I think they had plans to put them in welcome baskets. So, actually I need to get back in touch with them and find out what we’re doing for this season coming up. But, that’s what they do. They use them for sales calls.

Q - You actually got your cookies into Jerry Seinfeld’s dressing room.
A - Yeah. (Laughs).

Q - Did you ever find out if he tried one of your cookies?
A - No. I did not find out. I went on his Facebook page, but, I’m sure he doesn’t manage his Facebook page. I was in the audience at the show that night. I really wanted to call out and asked if he tried the cookie but, I didn’t have the nerve. I don’t know. I sure somebody ate them and enjoyed them but, I don’t know if Jerry Seinfeld did.

Q - Lieh's and Steigerwald carry your cookies in downtown Syracuse. Any place else?
A - I’m actually going to be in a pizza place called Cugini. It’s on West Genesee Street. That’s it for downtown. And then at the mall (Destiny USA), Fingerlakes roaster, which is very exciting.

Q - You’ve got a full schedule. If you’re not baking cookies you’re out there marketing them.
A - Yes. (Laughs). And then I go to work at the school. That’s 2 PM to 6 PM at the school. Then I come home. So, I bake. I’m either making dough, baking, or delivering cookies or selling them. It’s just like a 15 to 18 hour day most days.

Q - I don’t know how you do it.
A - I really enjoy it. I’m just really hoping to build a future with this business. I’m hoping to get a store and have something that’s stable. I just really enjoy it.

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