By Donna Cornelius
Amy Jason still remembers the first thing she ever baked.
“I was about 9 or 10,” she said. “It was an apple-cinnamon turnover that I made with Pillsbury crescent rolls. My first attempt was perfect, and I remember the feeling of instant gratification. I had created something warm and delicious and gooey and fantastic, and I could share it with my parents and make them happy. I was hooked.”
While the turnovers were a hit, Jason has built a business on a different sweet treat. Two years ago, she opened Cookie Fix on Homewood’s busy 18th Street. The little shop is filled with warm cookies and big flavors – and an aroma so inviting it likely would send Cookie Monster himself into a swoon.
Jason, who’s from Sylacauga, said she comes from a food-forward family.
“My mom was a really good cook,” Jason said. “Food was important, meals were important. We did not eat TV dinners.”
She said her mother liked to cook and to make food for others but wasn’t big on baking.
“I kind of taught myself,” Jason said. “In high school, my girlfriends and I would make dinners for our boyfriends. Mom subscribed to Bon Appetit magazine, and I would make whatever was on the cover. I was the ‘dessert queen.’”
She and her husband, David Jason, met when both were students at the University of Alabama. She lived in the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house and didn’t have kitchen privileges there.
“But when David and I were dating, I’d come back home and cook and bring him back something,” Jason said.
After the couple married and started a family, Jason concentrated her baking efforts on one special confection.
“I had two toddlers and another child on the way, and making cookies was instant gratification,” she said. “It made me feel I was accomplishing something.”
While she loved baking cookies, she was making too many for her family to eat.
“So I started sharing them,” Jason said. “I made them for Bible study groups, PTA meetings and teacher gifts. If a friend’s child broke his arm, I’d show up with my cookies. I’d leave them in the mailbox with a note.”She also began scooping cookie dough into balls and freezing them. Her friends began requesting not only freshly made cookies, but also the frozen dough, and she now offers both at Cookie Fix.
Taking Her Talent Commercial
“People began to say, ‘You should do this as a business,’” Jason said. “But this was a big risk. You don’t have a crystal ball when you start out in business, or nobody would ever fail. I’d been at home for 18 years. I had a word-of-mouth business and a strong following – and a whole lot of trust in the Lord. I did this in the Lord’s time, when our second child went off to college.”
Her friend David Maluff, one of the owners of Full Moon Bar-B-Que, helped her find just the right location for her business. The two looked at several places that didn’t meet with Maluff’s approval. But the 18th Street space got a thumbs-up.
“When we walked in here, he said, ‘This is what you need,’ in about one minute,’” Jason said.
She said Maluff also came to the rescue when Cookie Fix recently moved its production to a big kitchen in Hoover.
“I had an order for 4,800 cookies, and we needed an oven,” Jason said. “David diverted the shipment of an oven that he had ordered to us and really saved the day.”
Another supporter has been Andy McMakin, co-owner of Ashley Mac’s, who taught Jason to trust her instincts.
“He was very helpful and instrumental in helping me make decisions,” she said. “He was encouraging and reassuring. I’d say, ‘Andy, I don’t know what to do,’ and he’d say, ‘Yes, you do.’”
What Makes a Good Cookie?
Jason’s definition of a good cookie is simple.
“It should be crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside,” she said. “People tend to over-bake cookies.”
Cookie Fix has a tempting menu.
“Anything with chocolate chips is always popular,” Jason said. “The brown sugar blondies are, too. People love white chocolate.”
She said the Homewood Heath, with dark and semisweet chocolate chips and Heath Bar bits, is “an example of a name making a cookie crazy popular.” Even the Plain Jane, a simple but rich vanilla cookie, has a loyal following, she said.
“If I think something is going to be a hit, it usually is,” Jason said. “If we don’t think we’ve knocked it out of the park with a recipe, it doesn’t go on the menu.”
It may be a sign of Cookie Fix’s success that even a mistake led to a great-tasting cookie.
“The Brownie Bite was a mess-up,” Jason said. “One of our cookie chefs left out the leavening in a batch of cookies – which is usually 200. We wouldn’t have been able to make enough cookies to meet our demands without that batch. I thought, ‘I’ll just taste it,’ and oh, my gosh – it was better than the original recipe.”
Besides fresh cookies and frozen dough, Cookie Fix also has milk, cookie-sized cast-iron skillets, baking sheets and T-shirts. Cookies can be packaged in gift bags or tins. You can buy one or 11,000 – the size of an order Jason has this month.
While word of mouth has helped her business grow, an article on the Food Network website put the shop into the national spotlight. Cookie Fix was included in “The Best Cookie Bakeries in America” along with Sprinkles, one of the first and best-known cupcake bakeries, and Thomas Keller’s highly regarded Bouchon Bakery.
“The day the Food Network article came out – that (was) the first week of last December – we had about 10 or 15 customers waiting outside the door when we opened,” Jason said.
She said her husband, who grew up in Mountain Brook, works with her. The Jasons, who live in Vestavia Hills, have three children. Kathryn, 22, is a student at Tufts University. Greg, 20, followed his parents footsteps to the University of Alabama. Sixteen-year-old John attends Vestavia Hills High School.
Jason said Cookie Fix isn’t resting on its very tasty reputation.
“We definitely want to open another store in Birmingham and maybe expand to other cities,” she said. “We want this to be a well-oiled machine. We’ll see what the Lord has in store.”
Cookie Fix is at 2854 18th St. S in Homewood. It’s open from 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit cookiefix.com or follow the bakery on social media.