Way back, sometime around 1985 (yes, I am seriously giving away my age here), I landed my first non-retail, non-parent influenced job at a boutique wealth management firm in downtown Nashville. It was a sweet landing outside of my familiar with good folks in a fantastic office in what is now the Fifth Third Center, made all the more sweet by the location of a Christie Cookie Company store in the lobby. Those were the days … days when I was enthralled with the hustle and bustle of big city life and when a cookie was never off limits because I was exceeding my metabolism speed limit.
I grew up pretty simply. Banana pudding was dessert and an Oreo® was a cookie, so imagine my delight the first time I experienced one of Christie Cookie’s white chocolate and macadamia nut creations … I was over the moon. At that time, I’m pretty sure I thought all chocolate was made by Nestlé® and the most exotic nut I had ever experienced was my aunt Sara, who had lived all over the world with my USAF enlisted uncle. I think I took that little sojourn over the moon every weekday around 3 o’clock for a delicious period of time.
Flash forward more than a few years to just a couple of weeks ago when I received an invitation, along with some other local food writers of various types, to visit the Christie Cookie Company for a behind the kitchen door tour.
So take the tour I did, and I’m happy to report that this is not your every-day manufacturing facility, although some of the components you would expect are definitely in place … strong leadership, savvy marketing and PR, rigid quality assurance, serious research and development, and some seriously high tech operations. It’s definitely a sweet operation.
After we were greeted by Sue O’Donnell, President of the Mail Order Division, and Fleming Wilt, the President of Christie Cookie Company, and were appropriately outfitted in white coats and hair covering, we entered the heart of Christie Cookie Company and were greeted by something else entirely … the luscious smell of butter.
After 30 years in business, Christie Cookie Company has stayed true to its origins as one of the inaugural Nashville originals … using the same base recipe and the same high quality ingredients it started with … like real butter and no high-fructose corn syrup … none of the cost saving measures you might think would entice a growing company are allowed in the house. The manufacturing method is precise and extreme attention is paid to cleanliness and maintaining the comradery of the staff that works there … Christie Cookie Company prides itself on a family atmosphere in a manufacturing facility that provides steady income to about 50 Nashvillians and a consistent product to an ever-widening market that crosses our state’s borders with over 15 sales staff serving a nation-wide market. This is a small operation with a big heart and big production.
Ingredients are precisely measured and added to huge mixing equipment in a certain order to insure consistency. The facility is kosher, so one product is made at a time and equipment is cleaned to a pristine level before moving onto the next recipe. After a batch of cookies is mixed, it is heaved by manpower into the extruder and out come the ‘pucks’ as they are called. Next they move onto a conveyer that takes them through a flash freezing process in normal times, or placed by hand onto baking trays during periods of high production (think holidays here when 4 FedEx 18 wheelers a day are filled with edible delights going here, there and yon … amazing!), then onto yet another contraption that puts the correct quantity in boxes for freezing. No preservatives go into the mix so the freezer life is 3 to 4 months but, in actuality, the inventory is managed on a much closer time frame.
We didn’t discuss recent capital outlay with the management, but I’m assuming it’s been pretty high. The flash freezing equipment is relatively new, along with equipment that seals the contents of the boxes for storage. I’ll just say it … I was impressed with the automated portion of the manufacturing, but I was more impressed by the precision and attitude of the people working the various lines. It is like every cookie that is produced is their cookie … every gift container (that can be customized with your image by Christie Cookie Company’s self-owned silk screen company) is their gift container going to someone they love. I think the one ingredient that Christie Cookie Company does not include on its ingredient list is ‘pride’ and, yet, I think that is absolutely the most important ingredient in the mix. Only the “Miss America’s” make the cut … no wallflowers leave the premises.
This is a cutting edge facility operating on the ‘lean manufacturing’ principal which puts employees in charge of efficiency. I love a great cookie but, even more, I love a company in corporate America, a company located right here in Nashville, that listens and takes direction from its hands-on associates. They are good at partnering with employees and vendors like DoubleTree Hotel®, the Masters®, Holiday Ham and other outlets. They have partnered with the Nashville Predators® and will be providing individually packaged cookies at home games. Christie Cookie Company is focused on Nashville, but the world is out there just waiting to take a bite.
And it’s awesome that Christie Cookie Company donates a lot of their product to local charities. Those wallflower cookies don’t just go into the waste bin and have graced tables at local fundraisers including an event for the Center For Living and Learning and a United Way of Williamson County campaign event where 250 cookies were sold in about 20 minutes flat. By the time we were set up and rolling, the cookies were gone!
And not only was this a tour, it was a tasting! All of the tour guests were allowed to sample a some extremely tasty R & D … one of the newest creations scheduled to debut this holiday season … a peppermint cookie. This is still in development but was fantastic even in its early stages.
At the end of my tour, I received a lovely gift bag full of cookies and an uncooked batch of chocolate chip cookie dough that you too can get if you visit their location on North 3rd.
Joe and I have been salivating about creating our own Christie Cookie ice cream sandwich for a while now.
We baked these beautiful cookies…
And then we filled them with Talenti’s black raspberry chocolate chip gelato …
That ice cream sandwich was amazing and so was this tour. Thank you Christie Cookie Company for inviting me to experience one of the Nashville ‘foodie’ originals. It was delicious and was definitely “Guaranteed to Make You Smile.” I’m a fan. Now … go get yourself a cookie!