Former Tri-Citians return to sell their popular cookies
Ashley Meehan is a cookie connoisseur.
She has special recipes for at least 12 types of cookies, all of them large and tasty.
And for more than two years, she has been selling them to a famished public – from her car, her house, at pop-up stands.
“Just to see the joy it brings people, it’s fun,” she said. “People love something I created.”
Ashley will see her dream come true when she opens a brick and mortar Our Cookie House this month at 8530 W. Gage Blvd, Unit D, in Kennewick. The shop is in a strip mall next to The Local and Graze, and across the street from Costco.
Not bad for someone who lives in Maple Valley on the West Side of the state.
We’ll get to that.
Ashley’s story is about someone doing what they love and building a business from word of mouth and the ground up.
“When I was in high school, we had a neighbor who would come by and bring us chocolate chip cookies,” she said. “I loved them. He sent me into an obsession with these cookies.”
At age 16, she spent hours in her family’s kitchen, trying to replicate those cookies.
She eventually got the recipe down.
“I was the oldest of four kids,” she said. “We lived on a trail around a lake, and we’d hand them out to people on the trail.”
After she and her husband, Corey, married, they became apartment managers. Tenants would continuously come by their apartment for free cookies.
Ashley became known as The Cookie Lady, always giving them away for free.
Fast forward to 2018.
The Meehans and their four children lived in Kennewick. Brooklyn, their oldest daughter, now 17, was a member of the Kamiakin High School girls cross country team.
Brooklyn wanted to go to the summer cross country camp in Montana, but it was a bit expensive.
“We always made our kids pay for their camps. Teach them a work ethic,” Ashley said. “She was struggling to make the money for the camp. She babysat. She dog-sat. She finally came to me and said ‘Mom, please make your cookies, and I can sell them.’”
Mom said absolutely not.
“I didn’t want this to be on me,” Ashley said.
So Brooklyn got into cake making and tried to sell those.
Still, it wasn’t enough, and Ashley finally relented.
As it turns out, Brooklyn can be quite the salesperson.
“Brooklyn would sell them between classes,” Ashley said. “I thought maybe she’d get 60 cookies. But she was just determined, and she sold 160 cookies that first week.”
Brooklyn took orders for the first few days of the week, and then Thursday would be the baking night in the family kitchen.
Sometimes it would go on deep into the night.
Friday would be pickup day.
“We just did it on Friday, across the street and not on school property,” Ashley said. “The school was supportive. Kids would be running out of school after the bell to pick up their cookies.”
As school let out for the summer, Ashley began posting about her cookies on Instagram.
“Four weeks later, we’re being completely bombarded for graduation parties and family reunions,” she said. “People would come to my doorstep to pick up their cookies. I was starting to think this could be a thing.”
So Meehan got a cottage industry license, a business license, and she incorporated.
“A cottage industry license allows you up to $22,000 of revenue a year,” she said. “After that, you can’t be working it out of your home.”
As school started again in fall 2018, the Meehans had their order forms and Ashley kept using her Instagram posts.
“People would come to our car or our home,” she said. “Every Friday it would be it would be the high school kids, their teachers and other people.”
Even administrators placed orders.
“Brooklyn was really the hustle and heart of our team,” Ashley said. “She’s a cookie hustler.”
But Ashley started realizing they might be on to something big when she started noticing people she didn’t know were placing orders with her.
“It was a social media-driven business. That’s the way times are,” Ashley said.
The family was getting ready for another cookie Friday when Corey suddenly lost his job.
“We knew we were going to be fine, but in May of 2019 he got a job in the Seattle area, and we moved there,” Ashley said.
They found a home in Maple Valley, where they still live. And they’ve got a small following over there. But nothing like the Tri-Cities.
So they would periodically do a pop-up event in Kennewick, making the cookies Thursday nights, and then driving over on Friday to say, El Fat Cat near Kamiakin High School and set up shop there.
“We’d keep doing pop-ups in Kennewick, while planning to open a building in Maple Valley,” said Ashley, who says it took five months of paperwork to get ready to open a building there by March 1 of this year.
“Then the pandemic hit. My husband said, ‘You can do it,’” she said.
There was trepidation. Ashley had almost died 5 ½ years ago when a virus attacked her heart. She had sudden acute congestive heart failure, but recovered. But the family knew they had to take Covid-19 seriously because of her condition.
The day the Realtor said the paperwork was ready to be signed, Meehan decided to walk away from the Maple Valley building.
“I remember I was jumping for joy and crying at the same time. This was my dream,” she said.
The Meehans continued the pop-ups in Kennewick in June – at one point with up to 3,500 cookies.
“I had so many calls for graduation parties,” Ashley said. “I didn’t think the economy there was bad. Kennewick really is in a bubble compared to other places. There seems to be steady jobs there.”
That’s when the Meehans realized their business was in the Tri-Cities.
“We’ve grown the business there. Just week after week. We realized we needed to be there,” Ashley said.
And because sales were exceeding the cottage industry limits, Meehan needed to get a different business license.
“All we know is we’re opening a business there and we’ll figure the rest out,” Ashley said. “We have no debt, no investors. But I’ve got enough grit, and we just decided to do it.”
Ashley has a sister who lives in the area, so she has a place to stay.
But there is plenty to figure out. Like how many employees she’ll need.
“I’ve already got two ladies helping with the dough,” she said.
And the family will still help.
“Brooklyn is the assistant to the regional manager, she likes to say,” Ashley said. “Haven is 14, and she is the only person on Earth who can duplicate my recipes.”
Son Sawyer is 11, and is the box builder, while 6-year-old Penny just roller skates.
“She can’t be working in the kitchen,” Ashley said.
Our Cookie House continues to grow. It has already been featured in two wedding magazines this year.
When the family first started in Kennewick, they used one conventional oven. In Maple Valley, they have two ovens with multiple racks.
“We all take turns baking, she said. “I like to figure out oven hours. It’s about 22 hours a week.”
At the new store, they already have four ovens.
“We’ve been buying equipment and storing it,” Ashley said.
It will not be a sit-down place.
“Customers can order online, or we can help them when they come in,” she said.
Cookies are about $4 each because they make them big.
Of the 12 different varieties, she’s asked if chocolate chip are still her favorite.
“I’ve eaten that same cookie for over 20 years. I’ve moved on — although my husband loves them,” she says with a laugh. “I love, love, love the cookie butter and the cinnamon roll cookies. But our No. 1-selling cookie has been the s’mores.”
And she’ll keep making them all as long as people keep buying them.
“I think it’s just doing something I’ve always loved doing. I’m in my happy place doing something I love,” Ashley said. “After my heart problems, I’m living on borrowed time to be able to do this with my family and girls. That’s something a lot of people don’t get to do.”