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27 Mar Making Memphis Sweeter

In a recent Friday afternoon, a customer — male, well-dressed, mid-20s — picked up some cookies at The Whimsy Cookie Company. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But as the woman behind the counter started to close out the order, the man grew nearly frantic.

“I need a cookie on the side so I can eat it myself!” he blurted.

Moments later, a middle-aged woman walked into the store to modify her order for an upcoming party. Those familiar with Whimsy convinced her they’d need six dozen cookies instead of the three dozen she had ordered.

These are strong endorsements for the small custom-order business Laurie Suriff started years ago with her mom’s sugar cookie recipe.

Collins Tuohy joined the company about two years ago, investing as co-owner and director of sales and marketing.

With Suriff keeping an eye on the scaled-up production, making sure the cookies still taste like they came from her mom’s oven and look adorable enough to melt the toughest of party planners, and Tuohy acting as the hard-driving businesswoman, orders have soared.

Whimsy recently moved from Germantown to a new, very pink building on Poplar in East Memphis to accommodate a larger production facility and a blossoming retail business.

Whimsy offers an endless selection of cookie designs — school logos, musical instruments, baby buggies, mermaids, and on and on. Cookies start at $3 a piece.

The pair also does custom designs. One woman recently walked in and said she was throwing a 50th birthday party for her husband with a James Bond theme. So they quickly designed some 007-themed cookies.

They credit their commitment to taste for the national attention they’ve received. They’ve supplied treats for red carpet events in Los Angeles, a fashion show in New York, and the Super Bowl. They filled a custom order for Reese Witherspoon on the set of the yet-to-be-released The Good Lie and replicated Tim McGraw’s faith-inscribed heart tattoo for the country singer. (Tuohy’s family is depicted in The Blind Side. McGraw played Tuohy’s father in the film version of the book.)

The pair is turning their office into a “photo with the Easter bunny” setup in April, and the adjacent room will host parties for children or decorating classes for adults. Eventually they hope to franchise.

While they do get excited about celebrity clients, small local orders can be rewarding too, as Tuohy illustrates with cell phone pictures.

“Watching a 2-year-old who can’t get two feet from the register before he slams one down and it’s all over his face,” Tuohy says, referencing the photo of a young boy, “You stand there and go, ‘We sell a great product.’

“All the way from how our girls are sweet and treat you to our fun cookies to the color of our building, it’s all supposed to be very magical. You should feel like you’re in Disney World at Whimsy Cookie Company.”

by CHRISTOPHER SMITH
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