Name: Christa Hozie
Business: Brown Butter Cookie Co.
What she said then:
“We’ve gotten calls from all over,” co-owner Christa Hozie told The Tribune soon after. “We’ve exceeded our sales projections.”
Hozie and sister Traci Nickson formerly ran a specialty foods store at 250 N. Ocean Ave. Its Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookie was born as an afternoon tea treat when Nickson worked at the Cass House next door.
The snack became so popular that the sisters launched a website for it in December 2008. That month, they rolled 10,000 cookies for holiday orders.
By spring 2009, the 950-square-foot store had been transformed into a full-time cookie vendor.
In its first year, the shortbread-based, sweet-and-salty treats also appeared in The New York Times, Gourmet and Good Housekeeping.
What she says now:
National exposure continues, with a Parade magazine feature in November and two mentions from the Washington Post in December.
Sales for 2010 were up 80 percent from the previous year, said Hozie. In addition to online orders, tourists visiting Hearst Castle or driving along the coast seek out their store.
“We tend to be a little destination stop,” Hozie said. “It seems to be busy year-round.”
What used to be a two-person, single-oven operation now boasts 15 full- and part-time employees, plus four convection ovens. They tend to roll about 12,000 cookies a week. But in December, the company sold 95,000.
That month, the owners added their granola to the website.
By May, two new flavors of their popular cookie may be sold there, too.
“They’re so amazing, we’re probably going to rush them out,” said Hozie, declining to tip her hand by naming the new flavors still being tested.
Currently, the shop makes four flavors of the Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookies. It also sells four more traditional cookie types, one that’s gluten-free.
Though further expansion is limited in its Ocean Avenue home, Hozie doesn’t foresee a move. There are a few years remaining on the lease, plus the sisters love the location.
“There’s always challenges, especially when you’re growing quickly in a small space. Those little challenges just take you to the next step,” she said. “We just like to take it one year at a time.”