COOKIES BY DESIGN: Meet The Cookie Lady
Author: David Gignilliat | Photographer: Photography by Anne
Lou Anne Takach is having a bit of an identity crisis. Not a real crisis, of course—more of a nickname, if anything. In fact, it’s one of those charming, superhero alter egos that’s become quite easy for her to embrace.
“Yep, I’m the Cookie Lady,” Takach said, taking a rare morning break at her Cookies by Design retail store in Bluffton. “I’ll be driving around [making deliveries in the company’s logo-adorned yellow PT Cruiser] or be back at the store and people will shout ‘There’s the Cookie Lady. Hey Cookie Lady! Mom, there’s the Cookie Lady!’ It’s really quite funny.”
Whether she’s delivering a fresh-baked sugar cookie arrangement to Hilton Head, mixing up a batch of oatmeal raisin treats for a group of local teachers, or simply greeting a customer for a post-movie snack at her location near the courtyard at Sea Turtle Cinemas, Takach takes pride in the ‘Cookie Lady’ tag.
“This right here,” said Takach, holding one of her signature cookies in her hand, “is designed the same way it was 28 years ago when Gwen [Willhite, the parent company’s founder and CEO] developed her franchise. Fresh ingredients, mixed, baked, hand-cut, decorated by hand. Everything’s done by hand here. And it shows.”
Part of what makes a Cookies by Design arrangement distinct is its unique presentation. Prepared in the style of an elegant flower arrangement, the cookie displays are constructed with attention to detail and an eye for creative design. The bouquets can be so alluring they’re often mistaken for works of art to be admired from afar—and not necessarily eaten, according to Takach.
“People will get our bouquets, and [they’ll see] that they’re so beautifully designed and prepared, they’ll often ask, ‘Can we eat this?’ They don’t realize it’s freshly baked,” said Takach. “Yes, [it’s] 100 percent edible. Just don’t eat the tissue paper.”
The cookies are available in traditional varieties such as sugar, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip as well as several house specialties. They can be ordered in person, over the phone or online. Cookies by Design has negotiated licensing arrangements with both the NCAA and NFL, so Takach can reproduce cookies for nearly any alma mater or sports allegiance. She can also make cookies in the style of a variety of Disney and cartoon characters upon request.
Allowing the customer to tailor the product to fit a special event or occasion makes Takach’s tasty offerings anything but cookie-cutter. For example, if a company needs a cookie in the shape of a front loader or a backhoe, she can do that. Or if Bluffton High School needs “Bobcat” cookies for its upcoming homecoming football game, the Cookie Lady has them covered too. An expecting mother once asked her to prepare an arrangement to unveil for her and her husband the gender of their baby. She and her staff were thrilled to take on that challenge.
“We get to be a part of the special events and occasions in people’s lives,” said Takach, a mother of three. “It’s a special feeling knowing you’re a part of that experience for someone.”
The journey has been a winding one for the Pittsburgh, Pa. native. There’s always been a ‘sweet’ spot in her heart for the Lowcountry, having lived here briefly as her husband Doug’s military commitments zigzagged her and her family around the country and world. After Doug retired from the Marines, the family moved back here permanently in 1998.
“We really like the Southern hospitality, just the whole warmness of this area. It’s very laid-back and relaxed. It doesn’t seem like life is so rushed,” she said.
Before purchasing her Cookies by Design franchise in 2006, Takach had enjoyed eight successful years in the local hotel and hospitality industry, working in a variety of sales and management positions. Things were going well, but the timing seemed right for her to make a change. Her kids were grown, and her husband had retired from the military. And there seemed to be an entrepreneurial yearning that kept rising to the surface.
“I had been looking for years and years to get back to my own schedule, so I decided I wanted to open my own business,” said Takach, who can deliver her cookie arrangements as far as Savannah, Beaufort, Fripp Island and Ridgeland, and all parts in between. “I thought that this was the time to do it, because I could establish a business where I live; and as the [Bluffton] area grows, my business is going to grow with it.”
Takach had used Cookies by Design for gift-giving during her stint in the local hotel industry and decided to do some informal research to confirm what she already suspected.
“This [type of business] just seemed to be such a good fit,” she said. “I realized, wow, we could really use this type of business in our area. So what I did was order a bunch of Cookies by Design gifts from another store in Charleston, sent them to all my friends, sent them to work, and everybody said ‘Gosh, if someone would open a place like this here, they would make a killing.’ So I said, ‘Hmm, maybe there’s an opportunity here.’”
Part of being her own boss means knowing her product inside and out. That means Takach has to do a lot of cookie-tasting, a ‘responsibility’ she doesn’t seem to mind.
“Oh my gosh, yeah. I eat a lot of cookies. And I eat a ton of cookie dough too. It’s ridiculous,” said Takach, who confesses that her “Millionaire” cookie (made with butterscotch, chocolate, oatmeal and pecans) is her personal favorite. “It’s a rich, decadent cookie. It calls me every time I walk out the door. It says ‘Lou Anne, you forgot something.’”
The product, after all, must come first.
“It’s the quality control, making sure everything tastes the way it should, that really makes it work,” said Takach. “That’s what our customers have come to expect.”
And that’s how the ‘Cookie Lady’ makes a great cookie: by design.
Cookies by Design is located at 108 Buckwalter Road, Suite 2L (2nd Floor), in the Berkeley Place shopping complex, next to Sea Turtle Cinemas. The store is open Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday noon to 9 p.m. For more information, please contact the store at (843) 706-9505 or toll-free at 1-866-508-5232. Learn more or place an order online at cookiesbydesign.com.