Trust. Honesty. Integrity. While the specific recipe for Pacific Northwest Cookie Company’s famous homemade cookies are kept a family secret, their values, and their ingredients, are not.
“I’ve always believed that if you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have to be afraid,” said Pacific Northwest Cookie Company owner Callie Carpenter.
Working out of their home bakery in Adna with her mom, Susy, and brothers, Alex and Nathan, the family team produces six varieties of cookies using their own family recipe – with a few modifications. In order to spread the love, the Carpenters modified the recipes to be both vegan and gluten-free.
“I want everyone to be able to taste my mother’s cookies,” Callie said proudly.
However, being vegan and gluten-free wasn’t the original intent for the business. As a traditional baker, Callie was skeptical of the quality of vegan and gluten-free products and incorporating them into traditional recipes, and only used them reluctantly. But once family and friends with gluten and dairy intolerances expressed a desire for the cookies, the Carpenters began to test and modify the recipe to make them accessible to all.
Although Callie doesn’t have a gluten or dairy sensitivity, she is a competitive bodybuilder and is conscientious of what she eats, making it difficult to order at restaurants without needing substitutions. By making the cookies free of several allergens, Callie can promote inclusivity and relieve the stigma of feeling like a burden for having dietary needs.
“I’m excited about the fact that everyone gets to try my mom’s cookies,” she said, “and there’s no reason why someone couldn’t try them now.”
After four weeks of test trials and ingredient modification, the Carpenters found their winning recipes. In addition to using vegan and gluten-free ingredients, they substituted evaporated cane juice for refined white sugar, and palm oil in the place of vegetable shortening. Each of the six varieties – chocolate chip, peanut butter, molasses, snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, and double chocolate – are packaged in clear wrappers to showcase the quality and integrity of the ingredients.
“What I want people to know is that quality is super important to me,” Callie said. “I want people to feel like they’re part of my family, like they belong.”
Although the business start-up has the family working tirelessly and wearing many hats, they still find time to give back to the community that first supported them. As a way to fundraise for the Centralia College men’s basketball team, the Carpenters created the limited edition Trailblazer cookie, donating $2 from every $3 cookie, which goes toward equipment purchases and travel expenses for the team. This is especially significant for all seven of the Carpenter children, who attended Centralia College. Three of the brothers played on the team.
“My mom taught us from a really small age that we should always think of others more than ourselves, and we genuinely love to serve,” said Callie.
What began as a small start-up in April has quickly changed the trajectory of the family’s life. After beginning official sales in September to a handful of local businesses in Lewis County (including Ramblin Jack’s Ribeye, Chehalis Dutch Brothers and Highway 12 Espresso) they now span over 40 retail locations up to Whatcom County. They were also the winners of the Lewis County Economic Development Council, NACET, and Moonshot’s inaugural Smart Tank Competition, a Shark Tank-inspired competition for start-up businesses to pitch their ideas to industry experts and gain mentoring and scholarships. They’re currently being mentored by Moonshot and NACET for the year. Additionally, the commissioner of the Port of Chehalis welcomed them and considered their own plant.
“There are some days I genuinely start crying,” Callie said. “I’m just a small-town girl. I grew up in Adna. It’s not that there’s any reason why I think I couldn’t be successful, but I never really thought I’d be doing anything like this.”
But the road to running a successful business, and managing family relations, isn’t always a glamorous one. While Callie loves working alongside her brothers, Nathan (head baker) and Alex (operations manager), it’s those sibling dynamics that can sometimes get in the way.
“Some things I don’t have to explain because they just know me,” she said. “But on the opposite side of it, they know there’s things they can get away with just because I’m their sister and say ‘Aw, sis!’” joking that the brothers try to use their charm and connections to get things past her.
Fortunately for the family, it’s only brought them closer together. In previous years, as the siblings have gone about their lives at different jobs and started families of their own, it was hard to coordinate schedules and find time to spend together. But after starting the Pacific Northwest Cookie company, the siblings can work side by side again in their mother’s kitchen, strengthening their bonds.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever spent this much time with my family,” said Callie.
Having previously spent 11 years working in management for a major corporation, Callie feels great freedom in owning her own business and being able to challenge herself without limits, in addition to providing for her family.
“What gets me really excited about it is the opportunity to change my family’s future,” she said.
Even though it’s sometimes difficult to separate professional and personal life working alongside family, Callie sees the merit behind it.
“It’s a cool thing because it just goes to show how passionate we are,” she said. “It’s a lot more to us than just making a cookie.”
For more information, visit the Pacific Northwest Cookie Company website or call 360-827-1838.