by Susan Budig
By common consensus, a cookie is a small, round, flat, sweet baked product. But what if you’ve bitten into a cookie that’s square as a box? You might be tempted to exclaim, “This isn’t a cookie, it’s a heavenly hunk,” which is exactly what Ellen Redmond’s nephew said upon devouring one of Redmond’s homemade cookies.
Not only are the contours of the cookie unique, but its ingredients boost the bar-like cookie to another level of deliciousness. “The secret batter is the foundation for the cookie, but its shape is something different,” says Redmond. Its square shape holds in the moisture so that everything stays soft and chewy.
Redmond and her nephew, Casey Webber, co-own Ella’s Heavenly Hunks and produce these biscuits in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For thirty years, Redmond kept her recipe hushhush. She made them for family gatherings where they were always popular. When Webber attended college, she’d stir up a batch and mail them to him.
Her parcels to Webber, who studied business and tourism at Arizona State, fed more than his sweet tooth. With an entrepreneurial heart, upon commencement, he came back to Minnesota and went directly to his aunt to request both the recipe and a business partner so they could start selling her Heavenly Hunks commercially.
They put the cart before the horse by finding a market for their goodies before finding a production site. Although they didn’t yet have any fancy packaging or ingredients list with a seal affirming state compliance, the two of them still boldly took half a dozen cookies, wrapped in plastic with an attached sticker, and trooped into a coffee shop hoping for the best.
That the shop bit into their lure and placed an order was, according to Webber, one of the most gratifying feelings in the world.
Needing a commercial kitchen for production, but finding the available kitchens for lease not fitting their schedule or needs, they turned to Webber’s mom, who also happens to be Redmond’s sister and had connections to an available commercial-grade kitchen. It was located between the residences of the two co-owners of Heavenly Hunks. “We’ve always been kind of a tribe,” Redmond says, about the dependability of her extended family’s support and assistance.
Since their first retail order from a shop at the airport in August 2013, their product has taken flight, rapidly growing into markets both big and small. In the beginning, Redmond and Webber handled all of the production. One particularly memorable bake-off left them exhausted after mixing up over a thousand cookies. Redmond says, “I was standing the whole time, but I never quit. When I looked at Casey, he was in as bad shape as me.”
Production has since moved into Minneapolis with a staff of bakers doing the production work. Redmond and Webber still keep their fingers in the mix, but manage the business end of things from their office in Eden Prairie. Part of their business includes ordering and maintaining ingredients. They meet Valley Natural Foods’ policy regarding product selection because Ella’s Heavenly Hunks cookies use non genetically engineered ingredients with no artificial coloring or flavoring. Webber assures that all nine ingredients that go into each cookie are easy to pronounce.
Although they’ve experienced great success thus far, they are still a small company. They’ve found that the price break between organic and non-organic ingredients is prohibitive to small production. Until they reach a greater volume of output, they’ll continue to make natural cookies with wholesome, though non-organic, ingredients.
In fact, becoming a national brand is one of the goals of this ambitious team. Though schooled in business, Webber maintains that he acquired the chops for running Ella’s Heavenly Hunks through internet searching and a lot of networking. “Food people are very eager to help,” Webber says. He wakes before the sun appears because he’s highly motivated to work and achieve success.
Redmond, who has baked these coveted sweets in her modest kitchen for decades, likewise desires to expand their company’s reach. Although she developed and guarded the recipe for years, she shares Webber’s hopes for their jointly held business. This February, they will happily share top billing when they change their name to E & C Heavenly Hunks. This adventure is fifty-fifty, she says, and she wants their product name to reflect that.
Susan Budig, also known as The Mindful Poet, writes as a
music journalist, feature writer and news journalist for local
newspapers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her poetry appears
in “Writers Digest;” “Music & Vision;” “Classical Poets;”
Thirteen Blackbirds Poetry blog; Art & Earth arts blog, and
“Friends of the Arts” newsletter. Find her poetry on her blog