In March, Joana Fischer, owner of Twisted Cookie, will not only celebrate three years in Forest Park. She will also celebrate the opening of her second location in the Thompson Center in Chicago.
At 600 square feet, her new spot, in the downstairs food court, is a smaller space than her current location, 7401 Madison St. But because there’s no need for an eat-in section — the restaurants in the food court share a common dining room — she can still bake on the premises and offer the same treats she does in her current location: creative cookies and brownies, coffee drinks and ice cream.
In fact, those three offerings are unique to the Thompson Center food court: Fischer says that, other than a Dunkin Donuts, there’s nobody serving coffee drinks, including lattes and frappes. There are no real sweets being offered. And ice cream is also new.
“I want to capture the audience for something sweet,” she said.
The Loop has long been a market of interest for her.
“I’ve always wanted to have a location in downtown Chicago,” said Fischer. “There’s heavy foot traffic, and I want to create my brand downtown.” She added that the city is close to Forest Park and her home in Oak Park, and the convenience will be nice.
The new store will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with no weekends or nights. She hired a full-time baker for the new operation and staff to run the shop.
But her commitment and efforts here won’t stop.
“I want to do more in Forest Park,” said Fischer, who is planning a third annual food drive with the firefighters. She also likes to have Twisted Cookie involved in community events like Ribfest, the Firefighters 5K, and the Forest Park Chamber’s holiday and wine walks.
“I always want to bring visibility to the store,” she said. “I want to continue to focus on the brand and continue to expand.”
Her grand vision doesn’t stop at a second store. It’s important, she said, to have a vision. But that vision must be tempered by realism.
“Man plans and God laughs,” she added, explaining that her new store took longer, and was a little more costly, than originally anticipated.
In Forest Park, she’s grateful for her loyal customers, many of whom are regulars. “They’ve become friends,” said Fischer. “Sometimes they stop by just to say hi.”
She attributes her success to hard work and having a vision for what’s next, but also to a focus on a quality product and excellent customer service. To produce a quality product you need training, she said, but a great baker has natural ability, a knack for creating cookies. Even people who are professionally or educationally trained might not have that innate gift.
“I like to take chances on people,” said Fischer. “I’ll take a chance on a novice or someone who’s only baked at home. I look for people who have an eye for detail, are fast, have common sense, and just show up.”
Her main baker, Linda, only baked at home before joining Twisted Cookie. “She’s amazing,” said Fischer. “She doesn’t take shortcuts.”
And for customer service, she makes sure the employees who run the counter and serve guests have a good personality and put the customer first.
“I never want a customer to feel ignored,” she said, adding that one of the things she feels best about as a business owner is getting good feedback about her employees.
She’ll continue to offer delivery, online ordering, gift boxes and baskets, and catering. “The cookies we sell in the store are large,” said Fischer. “But we can scale them down for party platters.”
Although cookies, including cupcake and pie cookies, are what started everything and are featured in the name of the shop, a big part of Fischer’s business is coffee drinks, like lattes and frappes. She also serves homemade hot chocolate.
And she’s added to her services in Forest Park, too. The latest addition is deliveries of cookies, coffee drinks, and milkshakes and ice cream creations through Grub Hub and Doordash.
“I was surprised by how many people order dessert delivery,” said Fischer. “But convenience is a big thing.”