The Cookie Society started with a dare.
On a 2018 trip to New York, founders Jeff and Marissa Allen visited Levain Bakery, famous for their six-inch cookies. “I thought there was no way [these cookies] were worth waiting 30 minutes in line,” Jeff recalls. “But they were unbelievable.”
Marissa has always been an excellent cook, so Jeff turned to her and said, “I bet you can’t make anything this good.” Both were athletes in college, so Jeff says they’ve always shared a sense of hard work, teamwork, and, of course, competition.
Three months later, after testing and retesting, Marissa gave Jeff what he describes as the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
Today, The Cookie Society is a Frisco-based bakery and delivery service. They rotate more than 70 individual and seasonal flavors, ranging from that first, perfect chocolate chip cookie, to their famous Banana Pudding cookie, and much, much more. This year, their Holiday Dozen Gift Crate is featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things and best Gifts for Foodies.
Marissa, the head baker, and the mind behind their famous cookies, calls The Cookie Society a dream come true.
“I always baked growing up,” she says. Her grandmother was a baker with a home bakery in Louisiana, and Marissa says that she learned her love of the craft from her. Though she enjoyed her food blog full of savory recipes, she returned to cookies over and over again.
Then along came Jeff and his New York City challenge.
As Jeff tells it, they met in the University of Illinois’s training room; he, of course, played football (later for the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans) and she played soccer. “Sports played a huge part in the structure of our lives, work ethic, teamwork,” he says.
“I have a feeling I know what he’ll tell you,” Marissa says. “He asked me on a date and I shot him down. Then he slid in my DMs on Facebook and asked to take me to a movie. It took a few weeks, but I said yes, and the rest was history.”
Marissa developed on the perfect cookie, as Jeff had challenged her. She says she was looking for something very specific. “I like a soft center but some chew. Not cakey, crisp edges. That combination of textures. I like big cookies, not grocery store ones.”
She knew the chocolate chunk cookie was right when the taste was complex and developed. “I could taste salt, and rich chocolate, I could taste molasses.”
While Marissa is the mind behind the recipes, Jeff is her business partner, and, as he puts it, her “hype man and taste tester.”
Jeff says he knew they had something special on their hands when he tried her Banana Pudding cookie. That was a dare too. “He said, ‘I bet you can’t do banana pudding,’ and I said, ‘Watch me.’”
For Jeff, the Banana Pudding cookie is still a favorite. “It’s also nostalgic for me. It was the first one she made where I said, ‘No one else is doing anything like this.’ I’m a huge fan of [Marissa]. Every time I taste a new flavor, I give her honesty. She respects that.”
A former offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, Jeff says that his Houston Texans teammates were their first taste testers.
During his off-season, Jeff and Marissa did pop-ups at farmers markets, festivals, anywhere they could. Sometimes shoppers recognized him; fans were surprised to see a football player peddling banana pudding cookies.
They opened The Cookie Society storefront in Frisco, making it their homebase. They named it The Cookie Society because they wanted the business to feel inclusive, and fans to feel like they belonged to something. Plus, Marissa adds, if you put ‘cookie’ in the name, you expect that cookie to be amazing. She and Jeff like rising to that challenge.
The Cookie Society has been steadily booming ever since, and Jeff and Marissa find themselves perfectly suited to the changes COVID-19 brought to the food industry.
“Most businesses don’t start online. But we started backward, and figured out the hardest part of this business first,” Jeff says. “It was a blessing in disguise because when Covid-19 happened, we were prepared.”
When the pandemic hit, and people quarantined at home, they were able to ship cookies to people’s doorsteps, and everyone was in need of some comfort food. “The core of our business is making people feel good. That’s my wife’s love language,” he says. “She makes everything from scratch, everything, peppermint bark, toffee: she makes it all herself. She takes it to a new level.”
Marissa loves the creative aspect of the job. “They always laugh at me in the kitchen because I go on benders, where I create, create, create for a week.”
Not everything comes together immediately. The seasonal flavor, Gingersnap Cheesecake was a tricky one. “At first it was very good but flat. It was missing something,” she says. “I put it on the backburner, take notes, and revisit it when I feel inspired again.”
Once a recipe tastes right, Marissa repeats the experiment. She tests it and ships a batch to ensure it can travel. After the amount of cookies she’s shipped to herself to test their travel-readiness, she jokes that the post office thinks she’s crazy.
The Cookie Society is a small team, 20 people working out of one industrial kitchen, despite their robust and growing online presence. In two years, they’ve worked hard to expand.
“This is my wife’s baby, and we both believe in it. We’re willing to put in the work,” Jeff says.
Still, when an editor at O, The Oprah Magazine, emailed them in May, Jeff thought it was spam.
“There was no way,” Jeff recalls. “But it checked out. They said they were considering The Cookie Society for Oprah’s Favorite Things. We sent dozens of samples. In August, they said it was time to send cookies to Oprah.”
“They told us, ‘This week, Oprah is going to taste your cookies,’” Marissa says. “Then they told us we were in.”
The Holiday Gift Crate featured in O includes a dozen four-ounce cookies: six of Cookie Society’s signature flavors, Chocolate Chunk, Salted Caramel, Banana Pudding, Chocolate Chip, Snickerdoodle, and Cookies and Cream, as well as six holiday flavors: Sweet Potato Pie, Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Maple Pecan, Gingersnap Cheesecake, Texas Toffee, and “Holly”day Sugar.
To prepare, the Cookie Society team has been ramping up to prepare for millions to be exposed to the product, and Jeff and Marissa say that they’re working 18-hour days to keep up. They saw a jump in business before the magazine even hit stands.
Jeff says that the business works because the two of them are a true team. “You’re only as good as the person standing next to you,” he says.
As for what’s next after the holiday rush, Marissa is testing spring and summer flavors. She hints that a peach cobbler cookie is coming. “I’m doing it with real peaches and shortbread crumbles on top.”
Order the Holiday Gift Crate online and use the code OPRAH at checkout.
The Cookie Society | 9320 Dallas Pkwy, Ste. 160 Frisco | 214.618.0651 | cookiesociety.com