Craig Pike went from actor to king of a cookie empire

Craig’s Cookies developed a fanatical fan base in Toronto. Customers salivate over the Instagram-worthy ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies studded with tasty supplements like Oreos and Mars Bars, served in pink cardboard boxes sealed with a rainbow sticker to represent the LGBTQ+ community. Queues can often be found outside Craig’s Cookies locations – storefronts that are often decorated in the colors of Pride flags to signal that everyone is welcome. But if founder Craig Pike hadn’t dropped out of his acting career, his business might have remained in a parallel flurry.

Pike woke up late one Sunday morning in 2015 when he got a call from a friend asking if he would make four dozen chocolate chip cookies — his potluck specialty — for a party later that night. The last thing Pike wanted to do was bake (his kitchen wasn’t stocked with flour or chocolate chips), but he walked to the grocery store and spent the afternoon hunched over the small oven in his one-bedroom apartment in Parkdale. Pike made cookies largely as a hobby, occasionally selling them on Facebook or at local markets, and they were much appreciated by his friends. By chance, an editor of on my way The magazine, published by Air Canada, attended the party and was so impressed by Pike’s colorful candies that he decided to publish them in the magazine.

Some of Pike’s Creations

“I remember trying to make it look like I was running a real business, while it was just me baking cookies in my apartment,” says Pike. Pike, actor and musician, moved from St. John’s to Toronto in 2004 to study acting at George Brown College. After graduating, he apprenticed at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, founded an a capella group, That Choir, and was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award, the Canadian equivalent of a Tony.

Craig’s Cookies come in pink boxes with a rainbow heart sticker to represent the LGBTQ+ community (photo: Jasmine deBoer)

Despite his artistic recognition, Pike struggled to pay the bills. “I worked 40 to 45 weeks a year, but there were still those extra weeks I needed to fill in with something,” he says. In 2013, when Pike was between shows and in need of cash, he posted on Facebook selling a dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies for $8, delivered directly to customers’ doors on his bike. In two months, Pike sold 200 dozen cookies. He continued to sell his sweets on social media and at local events like Parkdale Flea Market – but the on my way feature was his big break. This media coverage led to a pop-up shop at the Williams Sonoma store in Yorkdale Mall. In 2018, Pike made enough money selling cookies to pay the first and last month’s rent on a 26-square-meter retail space in Parkdale. Craig’s Cookies took off after a feature on BlogTO. “I had to hire eight employees overnight,” he says.

In the beginning, the most enjoyable part of the business wasn’t baking — Pike would get up at one in the morning, sleeping at nine-minute intervals so he could bake enough cookies to meet demand — it was connecting with customers. “I just love people,” he says. “What I loved about cookies was getting them delivered around town and talking to everyone who bought the product.”

Craig’s Cookies Location on Church Street in Toronto

Pike’s acting mindset contributed to Craig’s Cookies’ rapid expansion. As he was used to being signed on to six to eight week contracts for productions, he was always thinking about what was coming next — what would be his next project? That thinking, combined with the success of his first physical store, inspired him to grow: in October 2019, he opened his second retail location, on Church Street; a store in Bayview Village that opened in October 2020; Leslieville in April 2021; and Yorkdale Mall in November 2021. Recently, Craig’s Cookies empire has extended to his hometown of Newfoundland. “As a kid, I was afraid of being myself as a queer person, so the ability to come home with a successful business that is queer-owned – and to be respected for it – means the world to me.”

To this day, Pike describes himself as an actor and musician first and foremost, someone who also happens to run a very successful cookie company. Next on the horizon, he plans to reorient art – not as an actor, but as the founder of an arts organization. In May, he launched That Arts Group, an umbrella organization of That Choir and a new theater company. He also plans to use his cookie reward to give back by funding a new work development program for BIPOC theater creators across the country, which will launch in September.

Craig’s Cookies locations feature eclectic art

While Pike is undoubtedly pleased with his success in the dessert world, one of the most rewarding aspects of what he does involves giving back to the LGBTQ+ community. He recounts a recent job interview where he asked the candidate why they wanted to work at Craig’s Cookies. They responded that it was because his business is reputed to be a welcoming space for members of the LGBTQ+ community. “If I never sell another cookie for the rest of my life, but I managed to create a safe space for people to work, it’s worth it.”

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