Blondie's Cookies Inc.
Brenda Coffman, founder and CEO of Blondie’s Cookies Inc. (Blondie’s), believes the single most important aspect of her business is making sure her product hasn’t wavered once in more than 30 years. “My least favorite thing as a consumer is to go into a store and find that a product is either no longer available or it’s watered down in quality,” she shares. “When you come to Blondie’s, whether it was 20 years ago or today, you can be sure our baked goods are of the same, if not better, quality as they have always been.”
Brenda founded Blondie’s out of a love for baking and means to make quick cash on the weekends through college at Indiana State University (ISU). “I started selling cookies to fraternity houses on the weekends and used the money to buy my groceries Sunday; I was the sober person on campus, selling my product to hungry people late at night,” she laughs. “I was majoring in dentistry, but I decided not to go that route.”
With a popular, fast-selling product, Brenda decided to take her cookie recipe to the bank. “I knew it was something I really wanted to do, so when the last year of college came I left to start the business and my husband stayed on campus to finish his degree,” she recalls.
A Rocky Road to Success
Brenda began negotiating with Simon Property Group for the first Blondie’s retail store in 1985 and by September the company launched its first store in Kokomo, Ind. “Only a year later, we opened two more stores and, unfortunately, one store didn’t make it,” shares Brenda. “That was a very hard lesson. When you have a failure, especially early on, it’s hard to make yourself go on, but we got through the slump; it may have slowed our progress a little, but it’s what taught us the most.”
Brenda admits that starting up Blondie’s and raising a family was quite a struggle at times. “Our children are now 23 years old and 18 years old, and Blondie’s is all they’ve know,” she shares. “It’s never easy, we’ve had to spend a lot of time away from the family trying to grow the business; you have to make sacrifices if you want it to work.”
Around the same time the second store failed, another was being opened in the food court of the University Place Hotel in Indianapolis and Brenda began to realize the time, energy and sacrifices were worth it. After three years of success with that location, the fourth and fifth stores were opened in Terre Haute at Honey Creek Mall and the Hulman Student Union at Indiana State University.
After several more years, Blondie’s opened several additional locations in Indiana. Blondie’s now has locations in the University Park Mall in South Bend, as well as the Glenbrook Mall in Ft. Wayne, Keystone at the Crossing in Indianapolis and in the Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood resulting in the largest, highest volume store to-date.
“Today, we’re in nearly every city in Indiana,” reveals Brenda. “We also have four locations throughout Florida and mail-ordering services that span the U.S.” Blondie’s has also established a fundraising division, selling frozen dough and baked items through a wide range of groups and organizations.
Controlling Quality & Consistency
Despite significant growth, Brenda’s focus is – and always will be – on the highest quality, consistent product possible. “We make our cookie dough on premise at each store location and we bake all of our products fresh daily,” she explains. “This results in a tremendous difference in quality and taste. It takes a little more effort on our part, because we’re sourcing the best ingredients and training our staff to make the product, but in the end it’s well worth it. We have a saying here at Blondie’s: It’s All About The Cookie.”
Brenda emphasizes Blondie’s quality and consistency standards. “We are our own biggest supplier,” she says. “We have everything from chocolate chips to flour and sugar shipped to our main facility. From there, we measure and size the bulk ingredients and ship them to the various locations, which then add the wet ingredients. This not only controls our bottom line but also ensures that any cookie, whether it’s coming out of an Indiana store or a Florida store 2,000 miles away, is going to be identical.”
Quality is also a result of the best ingredients for the job. “We’re very brand-oriented with our sugars, oils, chocolates and vanillas,” adds Brenda. “We only use the highest quality, including pure cane sugars instead of beet sugars.”
High quality ingredients and treats baked fresh daily combine to produce some of the tastiest, freshest cookies and brownies on the market. Blondie’s boasts its famous sprinkle cookies, classic chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia, peanut butter blossoms, cinnamon rolls, as well as German chocolate and cheesecake brownies, just to name a few of Blondie’s nearly 30 varieties of treats.
“We’re constantly creating new products, because as a retailer the worst thing you can do is let the market go stagnant,” explains Brenda. “We have a chewy chocolate chip, graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow s’mores bar out for summer and a new key lime sprinkle and a lemon sprinkle coming soon. We’ve also recently launched a red velvet cookie with a rich cream cheese frosting.”
Out of Blondie’s array of delicious treats, what doesn’t make it off the shelf at the end of the night goes to local charities. “Profit is certainly a measure of success, because you need that to move forward, but this business is also about how you impact your community,” says Brenda. “I like to think we’re affecting the communities we’re in, in a positive way; whether it’s a fundraiser for a child with brain cancer or a shelter for the homeless, we’re participating and that is what is important. Next month, we have a huge fundraiser for the Indianapolis Zoo, which is going to be costly for us with about 5,000 cookies, but it’s hugely important to stay involved.”
Although Brenda admits the company has had to be more diligent than ever before with the recession at hand, growth is still on the horizon. “Our goal is to increase annually and increase our national presence,” she reveals. “We’re pleased to say we haven’t lost ground through the downturn. We’ve gained new customers and sales every year.”
Brenda says that is partially due to the enjoyable nostalgia her products generate. “Who doesn’t love a cookie,” she asks. “I just focus on how I can get my product out there and ensure it has unwavering quality, even over the course of 30 years. For example, last year we had the opportunity to be on the ABC hit show ‘Shark Tank,’ and this year we will be providing gifts for the Emmy’s.” Blondie’s Cookies Inc. continues to remain dedicated to consistency and quality, making sweet memories for more than three decades.
For more information about Blondie’s Cookies Inc., please visit: www.blondiescookies.com.