What started as a late-night craving for something sweet has boomed into a thriving cookie business for Kurtis Toolson of Gilbert.
Chunk Cookies originally opened in 2018, but at the time operated exclusively as a delivery service.
In the two years that it’s been open, the company has gained over 13,000 followers on Instagram and now has two storefronts, including the Gilbert store that opened in June.
Toolson, who said he always wanted to be an entrepreneur, got the idea to start Chunk Cookies after hearing about cookie-delivery businesses in other states.
“I’ve never been a baker,” Toolson said, “My wife and I loved having late night cookies but whenever we’d try to make them at home we’d run out of an ingredient and it just became a hassle.”
The thought of having warm cookies delivered directly to people’s doorsteps was exactly the business idea Toolson was after.
“Cookies are a staple dessert,” he said. “The delivery service makes it so convenient. I knew I’d have a passion for it and decided to just start.”
Toolson knew the owners of Rise Up Bakery in Gilbert, who baked cookies sold at The Soda Shop, where he was working at the time.
After sharing his business idea with the owners, they agreed to let him use their facility and equipment when they had closed for the day so he could experiment with his own cookie recipes.
“I had to go into the science of how the ingredients work together to create different textures,” said Toolson. “I was trying to find a happy medium of creating a thick cookie and figuring out the right measurements. Making a batch of 12 cookies is a lot different than making 300 cookies.”
Once the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe was created – getting the stamp of approval from Toolson’s friends and family after several taste tests – he began working on spreading the word about Chunk Cookies through social media.
“I didn’t want to pay for followers,” he said. “So, I switched my personal Instagram account to the Chunk Cookies account so that we’d have some followers. I took off all my pictures and added cookie pictures.”
Toolson also reached out to local social media influencers offering them free boxes of cookies and encouraged them to share their feedback with him.
“I didn’t ask them to post about the cookies but about 90 percent of them did,” said Toolson. “The hype grew very fast because of it. It was a huge benefit and positive reaction.”
Toolson said he had no idea what to expect when he opened. He had hired 10 drivers and was still operating out of Rise Up Bakery.
As the demand soared opening night, Toolson ended up having to deliver cookies himself and recruited his parents to help out as well.
After a few months, he began searching for a location to open their first storefront.
Having established a large following for deliveries in Gilbert, Toolson turned to Tempe to start his first brick-and-mortar shop.
“Part of the concept is late-night deliveries and college students love that,” said Toolson. “We didn’t know how different Tempe would be. It was a huge wakeup call but we came out learning new marketing tactics and techniques.”
After opening the Tempe location, Toolson decided Gilbert deserved a brick-and-mortar store as well.
Once plans were established to open at Greenfield and Baseline roads, he was delayed by a month due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Toolson used the extra time to figure out the safest way to operate for both employees and customers amidst the pandemic.
Employees were all provided masks and protocols were implemented for hand washing and switching out gloves every 30 minutes.
In the meantime, an email and Instagram post went out promoting the grand opening, which included a free chocolate chip cookie just for stopping by.
The Gilbert storefront finally opened its doors on June 10, with lines wrapped around the parking lot. More than 2,000 free cookies were given out that day.
Toolson attributes much of the success of the new location to the Gilbert’s small-town feel.
“I didn’t think the grand opening would be huge,” said Toolson. “But everyone in Gilbert is close knit and it just goes to show how people were talking to each other about it. I was shocked by the turnout.”
Despite the economic struggles many businesses have faced due to COVID-19, Toolson said Chunk Cookies has continued to thrive.
“Because delivery is our signature thing and people were unable to see someone, we found that they were sending boxes of cookies as gifts or just as a way to say hi to their friends or family,” said Toolson.
Toolson said he plans to continue expanding.
“We are definitely looking to grow,” he said. “I have a few locations that I’ve looked into and we are constantly working on developing new flavors and are hoping to offer more of a wide variety.”