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Fall 2011 Sweet Success

The Cookie Party is a nascent franchise concept that aims to have retailers rolling (in) a lot of dough.

When it comes to kids’ birthday bashes, hanging out at someone’s house and playing musical chairs just doesn’t cut it these days. Dana Negri has watched as children’s parties have become increasingly elaborate and staged affairs. One such party provided the New Jersey stay-at-home mom with the spark for a new business venture.

“I thought it would be a great idea to have a party place where kids can make cookies and decorate them, with a separate room for the parents to hang out and relax,” she says. “It’s an interactive activity in a smaller, more intimate environment than running around a gym.”

Negri, who enjoyed baking with her mother growing up, approached her brother, Anthony Pennetti, about going into business together. “I suggested throwing a bakery in with our mom’s cookie recipes to add an additional revenue stream,” Pennetti says. “We moved forward with doing the research, put together a commercial kitchen and launched the store.”

That store, The Cookie Party, opened in November 2007 in East Hanover, NJ. During a typical cookie party, kids learn to roll cookie dough and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. The staff bakes the cookies in the oven, after which the kids decorate and ice them. Negri says the concept has had an overwhelmingly positive response.

A taste of specialty retail

Two years after its opening, The Cookie Party expanded to include a cart selling cookies at the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, NJ. While at the cart Pennetti says the idea of a mall-based kiosk that would be a hybrid of the original business came to him. Pennetti liked the DIY elements involved in having customers decorate their own cookies. He believed this aspect could easily be translated to a mall-based kiosk. “I thought we could have people decorate cookies on one side, and also have the bakery case,” Pennetti says.

As luck would have it, the vice president of global leasing for Westfield was visiting the property that spring and approached Pennetti at the cart. She liked the concept and recommended The Cookie Party have a specialty leasing presence at the Garden State Plaza. “We opened in November and got crushed with the holiday traffic. It blew me away, so I thought maybe we should do this as a franchise business,” Pennetti says.

Toys ‘R Us launch

When Pennetti considered expansion, he also thought partnering with a larger retailer was a good option. He contacted Toys ‘R Us and to his surprise, they asked if The Cookie Party would open a location at the company’s Times Square store in New York City. The new location was slated to open last month occupying 306 square feet on the main floor of the Times Square Toys ‘R Us.

The newest Cookie Party location plans to have a room for parties, a place at the counter where kids can decorate cookies, a bakery case, and Cookie Party to-go kits. The “to-go” option sells for $6 and includes a paper apron, decorating supplies, icing with spreader and a sugar cookie, and is also available at the East Hanover and Garden State Plaza locations.

Mall expansion is a strategy for the future. “Franchising is definitely something we have on the backburner and is part of our business strategy moving forward. Toys ‘R Us will help with brand recognition and more exposure, which I think will help transition into the franchise [aspect of the business],” Pennetti says.

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Kristin Larson Contino

Kristin Contino is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Philadelphia. She writes for a variety of print publications and blogs, and also covers women's fiction for

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