As the cold winds blew snow in from the west, the setting was warm and hospitable at the Montpelier Area Chamber of Commerce banquet.
The Quality Inn Conference Center hosted the event, which drew around 85 people from various organizations and businesses. The evening featured a buffet-style dinner, desserts consisting of pies and cheesecake and musical entertainment from the Montpelier High School Jazz Band and Locomotion.
The banquet celebrated the leadership of Executive Director Susan Gearhart who was credited with an influx of new members in her three years at the post.
The high school band and choir performed several song including some holiday favorites. The latter group does dance moves along with singing and gave a fun rendition of “Sleigh Ride.” The troupe also gave a soulful version of “Mary Did You Know.”
The keynote address was given by Cookies on Demand owner Becky Freese. She recalled the origins of her business from making batches at her home to opening in July 2012 during Bean Days.
Freese talked about dealing with a convection oven, a first-time experience for her. The oven was supposed to come in 10 days before the store opened to give Freese time to learn how to use it, but a delay pushed delivery to two days before the opening, she said.
While learning how to use the oven she had to throw out 50 dozen cookies.
Wondering if anyone would show up when they opened, the business had 500 people the first day.
“My kids went to Walmart five times for supplies,” Freese said. She and her husband worked until 10 p.m and went to Walmart for additional supplies, she said.
The business moved into the old Farmers and Merchant Bank and originally had 12 seats. The menu offered cookies, soup and sandwiches, the latter because that’s what the customers wanted.
The business outgrew the original site and moved onto the Broad Street site in June 2015. The menu expanded to include wine and appetizers and seating has been expanded to 30 seats.
The business hosts a special night event for women called “Wind down Wednesdays.” It runs 5:30-7:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month. There is live music. Businesses can sponsor the event for $100. The store will promote the businesses which sponsor that event, Freese said.
“We have 50-80 ladies there,” Freese said.
The daily production requires 55 dozen cookies by 10 a.m. and continuous baking until 5 p.m. Cookies are sent to 14 other locations in the area as well, Freese said.
“We make 1,000 cookies on a slow day,” Freese said. “We make between 3,000 and 5,000 on a busy day.”
The recent Christmas season was a busy one for Freese with her having to cut off taking orders Dec. 21. As the big day drew nearer, she started Dec. 23 and baked for 34 hours straight until noon Christmas Eve to get all the Christmas orders out.
The future looks bright as the business is expanding into the space next door in the building. The front half of the space will be office space and the rear area to host banquets for 35-50 people.
A whirlwind trip to the Finger Lakes area of New York state yielded arrangements with two wineries. One area woman who owns a bed and breakfast in the region orders her cookies for her guests. The cookies are a hit to Japanese business people who stay.
The business has been shipping cookies overseas as well.
The Rotary Club was honored as Business Group of the Year. The club has raised more than $10,000 for the community.
James Pruitt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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