*This story first appeared in The Budget’s June 13, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
There’s nothing like enjoying a warm, gooey cookie fresh from the oven, and it’s an experience Robin Barnby of Akron is hoping to recreate for customers at her new dessert shop in downtown Berlin.
Barnby is the owner of the first- ever franchise location for One Hot Cookie, a gourmet dessert company that was founded in downtown Youngstown in 2013 by mother-and-daughter business partners Bergen Giordani and Morgen Reamer.
“My daughter and I, all through her childhood and growing up, going out for dessert and getting ice cream and a treat was always something that was really special to us,” Giordani explained. “When it came time to start a business, talking about what we love and what we’re passionate about, it’s always been about dessert, and cookies especially.”
Out of that conversation came the idea to open a store that would offer warm, freshly-baked cookies throughout the entire day.
“All of our cookies are served hot, so we like to joke that we’re not lying with our name,” Bergen shared. “All of our cookies are baked fresh throughout the day, and instead of being served out of a display case or like a bakery case that you’re used to seeing, they’re served from a warming unit. Whatever time you come in, you’re getting a fresh, hot, warm cookie.”
In addition to traditional cookies like chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, M&M, oatmeal, peanut butter, snickerdoodle, sugar, and white chocolate macadamia nut, the company is also known for its specialty cookies that feature traditional cookies served warm and covered with signature frosting flavors and tasty toppings, according to Giordi.
“What we like to do is kind of a twist on classic flavor and taste combinations that you’re familiar with,” she explained. “We do a s’mores. We offer a salted caramel pretzel. We do banana pecan. We have a death by chocolate, which is really amazing, and extreme peanut butter cup, which has peanut butter frosting and Reese’s cups and chocolate sauce.”
The best part, according to Giordani, is that everything is served hot. “It’s this warm, gooey concoction.”
It was that delicious, hot cookie experience that led Barnby, who had spent more than three decades working as a registered nurse and vice-president for a retail pharmacy, to approach the company’s owners last year about the possibility of opening up the company’s first franchise location.
“I’ve done medicine for my whole life, and I was on a little sabbatical trying to figure out what my Act 3 was going to be,” she shared. “I had lots of great offers in the world of medicine, but it just didn’t feel right.”
Then, Barnby came across the One Hot Cookie location in Ross Park Mall during a shopping excursion in Pittsburgh with a friend from Millersburg and her daughter.
“We went in and ordered our cookies and sat down,” Barnby recalled. “Within two bites, I was looking at the staff going, ‘Are there franchises available?’”
Barnby reached out by email to the company’s mother-daughter owners, and although they weren’t actively seeking franchise owners at the time, they agreed to meet her to talk about her goals and vision for the stores.
“We had started a franchise process, and we’re legally set up to do so, however, we were not actively advertising franchises at the time. Robin came into our store outside of Pittsburgh and absolutely fell in love with the concept, the product, everything about her experience,” Giordani shared. “She really gets the spirit of One Hot Cookie.”
“We met and talked and decided with my business background we could help each other, and so I’m their first franchisee,” Barnby said.
Of course, the next order of business was finding a location. Although she had originally envisioned opening up her first store in the Akron area, when prime space became available inside the Berlin Exchange, it was an opportunity that was too good for Barnby to pass up.
“I’m a Skyview Ranch girl. I worked there as a teen for multiple summers, so I still have lots of friends in the area even though that was a really long time ago,” she explained. “I knew that this is one area I wanted to expand into. Everything worked out, and this is going to be the first location.”
During the week before opening, Barnby hosted cookie training with the store’s newly-hired staff members as a team-building exercise and to help familiarize the staff with the store’s menu. “We made absolutely every cookie on the menu, let them try a bite of each. By the end, everyone’s tummy was quite full,” Barnby shared. “That was a great experience. It was fun starting the process of us being a team and being able to deliver a great experience.”
That team is ready to now ready to serve Holmes County from inside Berlin Exchange at 4832 East Main Street. Store hours have initially been set for Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Traditional and specialty cookies are available individually or by the half dozen. Be sure to try out one of Barnby’s personal favorites, a snickerdoodle cookie topped with maple glaze and brown sugar and maple-syrup coated bacon.