Flourished not floundered: How one Colorado Springs cookie shop bloomed during COVID-19
Mar. 19—During a time when companies closed, employees lost their jobs and the world shut down, business started to heat up for Sasquatch Cookies.
Nearly 50 million Americans (nearly twice the population of Texas) were unable to work in May 2020 because their employers closed or lost business due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But for Colorado Springs' Sasquatch Cookies owner Brooke Orist, 33, COVID-19 was a period of hiring, expansion and sales growth.
Orist began her business with a few friends in 2017, baking after-hours in a commissary kitchen three days a week. With no storefront, Orist's business model relied entirely on delivery.
In the business' infancy, Orist did not yet have an automated delivery system. Instead, an order would come in, and she and her friends/business partners would have to claim it and search for directions on Google Maps.
"I remember our very first order from a customer was a lady that accidentally hit someone else's dog," Orist said. "And she was sending cookies as like, 'I'm so sorry that I killed your dog.'"
Orist hoped Sasquatch Cookies didn't create a negative association for the recipient, but from there Orist and her business partners attended festivals and art shows selling their products and getting their name out.
"It was a huge blessing," Orist said. "It was exactly what we needed to do."
Six months into deliveries, Sasquatch Cookies invested in an automated delivery system that would populate deliveries on the map and match them to a driver.
Business kept up so well that Orist planned to open her first brick-and-mortar location. By that point, all of her business partners had exited the company and Orist, who created the recipes and Sasquatch concept, went from majority owner to sole owner of the business.
Her first quick-service location opened at 1020 E. Jefferson St., Suite 100.
"Everything went wrong in construction that could go wrong," Orist said.
Instead of opening in April 2019, her business opened almost a year later in March 2020, the week before COVID-19 lockdowns began.
What might have seemed to be a death sentence (and surely was for some businesses) was the beginning of a boom for Sasquatch Cookies.
"It wasn't a pivot, we had always done deliveries," Orist said. "So, we immediately were inundated with a crazy amount of deliveries every day."
Orist went from 25 deliveries a day to about 200. She hired 40 new staff, up from her regular six. Orist mostly hired people who lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic.
"We had a woman who worked for Disney for years doing tours," Orist said. "Most recently, it was Paw Patrol, so she likes doing costumes and stuff, so she was like, 'Sasquatch delivery, that's perfect for me.'"
From the days of late-night baking to Sasquatch suit deliveries, Orist's cookies were on a roll.
The bakery's modest storefront was allowed to stay open and drew business too. Plus, with an already-established delivery system, Sasquatch Cookies helped other businesses sell and deliver their products during the pandemic.
Eventually, Orist scaled down staff as many workers returned to their usual careers. But that didn't mean Sasquatch Cookies' popularity slowed; 2021 was its biggest year of sales.
"Over Christmas, Amazon ordered 15,000 cookies," Orist said. "So, we have massive days."
By the end of 2022, Orist opened two more locations, a shop at 7636 Dublin Blvd., Suite 170, and a spot at Red Leg Brewing Co.'s complex, 2323 Garden of the Gods Road.
Recently, Orist's family has helped contribute too.
Her mom is a shift leader at her Garden of the Gods location; her brother-in-law, a contractor, helped build her Dublin location; and her older sister, Claire Schroeder, helps bake and run the register.
"This is all of me and Brooke's handiwork," Schroeder said, pointing to the drywall at the Dublin location. "I literally built this place."
But as national cookie brands enter Colorado Springs, such as Crumble Cookies and Mary's Mountain Cookies, Orist wonders what the future will hold.
"I've had a lot of people reach out and be like, 'Hey, I want to own a franchise,'" Orist said. "And sometimes I'm like, 'Oh, that could be cool.' But I don't know. I'm like, 'OK, Lord, what do you want me to do?'"
Until then, cookies are sure to still be on the menu.