KILLINGWORTH — The pervasive scent of coffee and fresh baked goods greet customers who venture into newly opened Andie’s Cookies.
But unlike other bakeries, the business incorporates artwork from local artists, sustainable packaging, board games, and even a giant statue of a knight in a suit of armor named Monte whose helmet grazes the ceiling.
“If I’m going to have a cup of coffee outside of the house, I’ll drive through town and I’ll just come here,” said customer Lisa Keiser of Killingworth. “I know I’ll come in and I’m going to see friends.”
Keiser has been friends with co-owner Andrea Freibauer for the past 10 years, and has watched Freibauer’s hobby turn into the business it is today. After six years of selling her cookies from a website, Freibauer and her husband, Larry, opened the storefront in September.
“We knew it would be a lot of work and we were fine with that,” Andrea Freibauer said. “It took six years, but we finally got it together, and we found the right opportunity. We found the right place: It’s our hometown.”
At holiday cookie swaps and parties, Andrea Freibauer’s cookies always were a fan favorite, according to her husband.
“Right after Thanksgiving, she would just bake cookies, and everyone always commented, ‘Your cookies at the cookie swap were always the best’ and they said, ‘Could you bake an extra tray for us and we’d pay you?’” Larry Freibauer explained. “I said, ‘Hon, you got to jump on this. You’ve got something going on here — people really love your stuff,’ and I said ‘I’m with you 100 percent.’”
Running the business from a storefront has proven easier for the couple than selling their goods through the website. Previously, they rented a commercial kitchen in Clinton, and did the baking there, then would bring the cookies to vendors and markets. Keiser said that eventually became overwhelming for Andrea Freibauer, who also works a full-time job.
“She’d bake in all of her spare time, and then bust her butt building up her name, networking, doing fairs, vending to get their brand out all throughout Connecticut,” Keiser said.
While the website is still operating, Larry Freibauer explained that having the shop has changed their business strategy. Instead of going to customers, they are working to bring customers to them. And coming to the store is often the most important part of the experience, he said.
“People have come in and just played board games for an hour and drank coffee, and talked about events and what’s going on in the town and that’s exactly what we wanted,” Larry Freibauer said.
Andie’s Cookies are distinct from other bakery products because the owners insist on all-natural ingredients sourced locally. Cookies available at the counter vary from day to day and none are typical flavors. Even the chocolate chip cookies are infused with sea salt for a touch of uniqueness. Additionally, all varieties are packaged in eco-friendly packaging.
The store also sells breads, bars and, most recently, empanadas. Andrea Freibauer said cookies will remain her focus.
Jerry Volpe, a friend of the Freibauers and a regular at the store, said the treats are worth the drive from his home in Meriden.
“If you’re going to get something, and you know the quality is there, and the price point is phenomenal it’s worth the drive,” Volpe said. “There’s something very different — they’re not a Dunkin’ Donuts, they’re not a Mrs. Fields. So to make the drive to pick it up, it’s worth it. It’s exciting. You make the time for it.”
The store also sells coffee from Perkatory Coffee Roasters in Middletown and goods from local vendors.
Keiser’s paintings hang on the walls of the shop, and she said one already has been sold since the store’s launch.
“They opened this place as a place for the community, and the fact that they help out other community members, giving them a space for their artwork, for their creations and stuff like that, it promotes that feel of community,” Keiser said.
The couple said opening the shop would not have been possible without the help of residents and friends like Volpe. Because of that assistance, they were able to convert an old insurance office into the vibrant bakery.
The front counter is made of pieces of the old floorboards. Customers can nibble cookies and sip coffee while perched on pieces of furniture donated or purchased at the Salvation Army.
“We have a very eclectic sense of design,” Larry Freibauer said. “If it looks cool, we put it up.”
Volpe and Keiser emphasized it’s the people who make the Andie’s Cookies experience complete.
“When it comes to how they run the business, it’s not for show,” Volpe said. “How they are in the store is how they are when you talk to them. It’s very down to earth, it’s very cheerful. Which makes it very homey.”
For information, visit andiescookies.com, check out the Andie’s Cookies Facebook page or call 860-452-4401.