Many of you may already know the Kodiak story, but some of you may not know that in the early 2000’s we also had our very own brick and mortar cookie shop here in Utah. Our CEO and Co-founder, Joel Clark, fell in love with a small store while in grad school at Oxford called Ben’s Cookies, and convinced the owner to let him franchise the operation in Utah. In 2003, Joel opened shop at The Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City with a fanfare.
For many, The Gateway Mall was the place to shop at the time. It opened right before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and boasted an open-air concept with stores many locals had never seen before, a concert venue, a movie theater, and a planetarium. As you can imagine, the chance to open a gourmet cookie shop on the ground floor offered prime real estate that Joel couldn’t pass up!
The shop had a staff of about ten employees. In 2007, Joel brought Cori Stevens on board who would later become the third employee at Kodiak Cakes. She soon became the cookie shop’s store manager; working full-time running the store, staff, and - of course - making hundreds of pounds of cookie dough every week!
When Kodiak Cakes started gaining more traction in 2009, it only made sense to bring the brand into Joel’s cookie store. Pretty soon, Ben’s Cookies evolved into Bear Country Cookies. As both businesses began to flourish many of their defining characteristics began to overlap. Cori led the charge by incorporating whole grains into Bear Country’s cookies, rebranding, and using the cookie shop as Kodiak Cakes’ first retail location where customers could purchase Kodiak Cakes mixes and fruit syrups outside of the grocery store.
With cookies the size of your hand, the store utilized a special oven with a conveyor belt that would bake a cookie really hot and really fast — creating a deliciously gooey and soft cookie with the perfect crunch on the outside. The best sellers included flavors like Milk Chocolate Chip, Snickerdoodle, Double Chocolate Chip, and Orange Milk Chocolate.
“My favorite was the Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip! We imported Belgian chocolate chips that were about the size of a quarter — they upped the gooey factor for sure!”
– Cori Stevens
It was tough to convince consumers that a $2.00 premium cookie was worth their money at the time, but once they bought into the concept there was no turning back. Bear Country Cookies became a go-to stop for many shoppers at The Gateway because it was Salt Lake City’s first premium cookie shop in many years, paving the way for many gourmet cookie stores we see in the city today!
Unfortunately, Bear Country Cookies place in the community came to an end. Securing a spot at The Gateway was a huge success in the early to mid 2000’s, but a new mall opened up a half-mile away in 2012 that brought new, upscale stores and restaurants to the city. The foot traffic at The Gateway dropped dramatically and soon permanently. Bear Country Cookies, like so many others, couldn’t survive the downturn.
“The new mall absolutely devasted the businesses at The Gateway. While many big flagship stores were able to move to a new location, most smaller stores went under. Bear Country Cookies didn’t make it out of this slump; not a lot of stores could.”
– Cori Stevens
So, Cori joined Joel and his team to put all their focus on Kodiak Cakes, which was growing and becoming more successful by the day.
“It was bittersweet to say goodbye to an old friend, as we had big hopes to grow our little cookie shop.”
– Cori Stevens
To celebrate the cookie shop, we’re sharing our secret recipe for Kodiak Cakes Chocolate Chip Cookies. For the ultimate Bear Country Cookie experience, we suggest using Belgian chocolate baking chips!