Words by Amelia Heymann
Red Eye Cookie Co. is the back ally cookie delivery service that has been booming since its doors opened in late March, 2014.
Shafer Bird staff writer Amelia Heymann had the pleasure of interviewing the President of Red Eye Cookie Co., Brayden Pleasants. He has inside insight on new developments for the company, as well as some exciting news for the cookie delivery service.
While there are other late night cookie stores around the U.S., what made you want to start one in Richmond?
Brayden saw there was an opening in the late night cookie market, since the two founders both liked sweets, to stay up late and there were no competing companies around Richmond. They grew up in Richmond and love the vibrant art scene, and how everyone’s out at 1:00 to 2:00am in the morning. Even when VCU is out during the summer, there’s still a large demographic of food service workers and young professionals out at these late hours.
We also know that Red Eye Cookie Co. is very close to the dorms, but delivery is usually estimated to take an hour. Why is that?
Part of the model for Red Eye is that the cookies are baked to order. Figure if there’s only one order in the kitchen, it takes 30 seconds to process the order, 2-5 minutes for prep, 12-15 minutes to bake them and then an additional 5 minutes to prep them for delivery. The entire process takes roughly 20-25 minutes on a light volume night. After the cookies have been baked they still have to wait for the delivery car to come back from previous runs.
Red Eye is constantly working on increasing efficiency, but at the moment 40 minutes to an hour is their delivery time goal. They try to spread out delivery to be as quick as possible to everyone in their delivery zones, so they can’t always prioritize dorms for getting first deliveries.
I saw on Facebook you have a truck, but I’ve never seen it around town. When and where does it tend to set up shop? Is there any way to track it, for example, on Twitter?
It ends up that the food truck was mainly just purchased for more exposure of the cookie delivery service. It is out really only at main social events. People come into the shop because they’ve seen the truck, not so much visa versa. The idea is to bring in more people from the city. Our main sales are still in store.
The truck will possibly be making a regular appearance next year at Hardywood Food Truck Court, located at the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. It will also be seen at some upcoming food festivals, including Pumpkin Fest and Fire Flour and Fork.
Fire Flower and Fork is both a major and popular festival. How did Red Eye Cookie Co. get to participate in it?
The Red Eye brand has matured. Sometimes Red Eye reaches out to seeking opportunities, but sometimes events reach out to the cookie company.
The Richmond food community is a small world. In a lot of aspects, how few people there are involved in the Richmond food community helps develop relationships between all those associated. It’s like a little family. The other restaurants and festival organizers can call on Red Eye for help and information, and Red Eye can reach out as well.
Red Eye Cookie Co. has been growing; you even sell cookies in a couple local stores. Are you planning on expanding the store to a new or bigger location? Are there any big plans?
Again, Red Eye is primarily a late night cookie delivery service. Red Eye likes to increase exposure and brand recognition. To do this they have whole sales in cookies of the shelves of many local store shelves. Some of these stores are Union Market, Little House Green Grocery and many others scattered throughout the city.
When Red Eye was looking to open, they had a couple of locations they were considering. The opening had been delayed, so they were trying to get opened as soon as possible. Brayden reached out to local Richmond bakeries for help finding and obtaining a location. Sally Bell’s Kitchen ended up being the perfect fit.
Red Eye is looking to have its own permanent home in the future, but for now the current store fits. They like the speakeasy feel of it and people aren’t too afraid to come in the back to get cookies. As long as it continues to serve their purposes, they are planning on staying.
Campus Cookies is coming to town, how do you think this will affect business? How will Red Eye respond to the new competition?
Red Eye is just focused on making delicious cookies and having excellent service. They will adapt to the market, but they are not really focused on what others are doing. Brayden met the Campus Cookies owner and thinks he is a nice guy. He is greatly happy for more people helping bring more mass cookie production.
Red Eye cookies are unique, made from scratch and made from local resources. They feel the community will continue to connect with this.
Red Eye has food allergy oriented cookies such as vegan and gluten free. Is Red Eye planning on expanding on this part of the menu and/or making more cookies that include different diet restrictions?
If people are crying out for some cookie flavor or dietary option, Red Eye will certainly consider it.
Gluten free and vegan cookies came out after the opening of the restaurant. They take a while to develop because Red Eye holds their cookies to a high standard. Gluten free and Vegan are some of the restriction people were calling out for and Red Eye is open to expanding their menu.
Of course we had to ask Brayden the obligatory fluff question: what’s your favorite cookie?
He said honestly what he loves in their menu is there are a lot of unique flavors, but all of which are distinctive. You can get something rich in flavor like the Chocolate Andes Mint Chocolate Chip, or something lighter like the Oatmeal Raisin. Brayden’s favorite though, is the Snickerdoodle with whole milk.
Lastly we wanted to know if Red Eye Cookie Co. had any big announcements they’d like to share.
Red Eye Cookie Co. tries to listen to their market. As soon as they opened they were blown away by the demand. They’ve done things like extend their delivery area and sell wholesale cookies so people could also purchase cookies during the day.
Red Eye has heard that their customers are having problems placing orders through the phones during high volume hours. To help with this issue, Red Eye has now developed an app that you can order cookies on. This app is available on both the Apple App Store and on Android Marketplace. Brayden has tried the app to order cookies for himself and was successful.
There are a lot of new developments at Red Eye, from the approach of a competitor to a new app to make cookie ordering easier. It is surprising to think this cookie delivery service has been open for less than a year with how successful they have become.
Next time the sun has set and you have the craving for fresh baked cookies, don’t hesitate to pick up your smart phone or walk over to Red Eye Cookie Co. to get your cookie fix.