Craig’s Cookies developed a rabid fanbase in Toronto. Customers are salivating over Instagram-worthy gooey ooey chocolate chip cookies sprinkled with tasty toppings like Oreos and Mars Bars. Storefronts are often adorned with the colors of Pride flags to signal that everyone is welcome inside, and cookies are served in pink cardboard boxes sealed with a rainbow sticker. On busy evenings, there are often lines of customers outside the door, eagerly awaiting a freshly baked treat. But if founder Craig Pike hadn’t pivoted from his acting career, his business might have remained a side hustle.
Pike had been up late on a Sunday morning in 2015 when he received a call from a friend asking if he would bake four dozen chocolate chip cookies – his potluck specialty – for a party later. In the evening. The last thing Pike wanted to do was cook (his kitchen wasn’t even stocked with flour or chocolate chips), but he went to the grocery store and spent the afternoon hunched over his little oven. his one-bedroom apartment in Parkdale. Pike made cookies largely as a hobby, occasionally selling them on Facebook or at local markets, and they were well-liked by his friends. By chance, an editor of on the way magazine, the publication of Air Canada, attended the party and was so impressed with Pike’s colorful confections that he decided to feature them in the magazine.
“I remember trying to make it look like I was running a real business, when it was just me baking cookies in my apartment,” Pike says. Pike, an actor and musician, had moved from St. John’s to Toronto in 2004 to study theater at George Brown College. After graduating, he apprenticed at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, founded an a capella group, This choirand was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Awardthe Canadian equivalent of a Tony.
Despite his artistic recognition, Pike struggles to pay the bills. “I was working 40 to 45 weeks a year, but there were still those extra weeks that I had to fill in with something,” he says. In 2013, when Pike was between gigs and needed the cash, he posted on Facebook selling a dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies for $8, delivered right to customers’ doorsteps on his bike. In two months, Pike had sold 200 dozen cookies. He continued to sell his confections on social media and at local events, such as the Parkdale Flea Market, but the on the way characteristic was his big pause. This media coverage led to a pop-up shop at the Williams Sonoma store in Yorkdale Mall. In 2018, Pike made enough money selling cookies to pay the first and last month’s rent of a 26 square meter retail space in Parkdale. Craig’s Cookies took off after a feature in BlogTO. “I had to hire eight employees overnight,” he says.
At first, the most enjoyable part of the business wasn’t the baking – Pike got up at one in the morning, slept at nine-minute intervals so he could bake enough cookies to keep up with demand – it was the connection with customers. “I just like people,” he says. “What I loved about the cookies was delivering them all over town and having conversations with everyone who bought the product.”
Pike’s acting mentality contributed to the rapid expansion of Craig’s Cookies. Because he was used to being hired on six to eight week contracts for productions, he was always thinking about what was next – what would be his next project? This reflection, coupled with the success of his first physical store, inspired him to grow: in October 2019, he opened his second store, on Church Street; a boutique in Bayview Village opened in October 2020; Leslieville in April 2021; and Yorkdale Mall in November 2021. Recently, Craig’s Cookies empire has expanded to its hometown of Newfoundland. “As a child, I was afraid to be myself as a queer person, so the possibility of returning home to a successful gay-owned business – and being respected for it – means the world to me.”
To this day, Pike describes himself primarily as an actor and musician, one who also runs a very successful cookie business. Next on the horizon, he plans to refocus on art, not as an actor but as the founder of an artistic organization. In May he launched That Arts Group, an umbrella organization for That Choir and a new theater company. He also plans to use his cookie bounty to give back, funding a new work development program for BIPOC theater makers across the country to launch in September.
While Pike is undoubtedly thrilled with his success in the dessert world, one of the most rewarding aspects of what he does is giving back to the LGBTQ+ community. He recounts a recent job interview where he asked the candidate why he wanted to work at Craig’s Cookies. They replied that it was because his business had a reputation for being a welcoming space for members of the LGBTQ+ community. “If I never sell another cookie for the rest of my life, but I was able to create a safe space for people to work in, then it’s worth it.”