In a small 700-square-foot bakery in the back of the Khalif Event Center on East Wendover Avenue, the Crescent Cookie Co. is in full operation.
Their powdered-sugar-covered shortbread cookie may look like another church cookie or Mexican Wedding cookie to you, but their secret is in the family recipe passed down through generations. The recipe is from company creator Laura Smith’s Syrian background. She first made the recipe in her Grandma Virginia Mastry’s kitchen as a child. The entire operation at Crescent Cookie Co. is a family affair.
Smith’s mother, Tipe Payne, compares the company to the popular television reality show “Duck Dynasty.” “It’s a cookie dynasty,” she says.
Smith started the company in 2011 when she was encouraged by her friends and family to sell her cookies beyond her catering gigs. She got support and encouragement from another food entrepreneur, Cheryl Barnett of My Three Sons Pimento Cheese.
Smith started the business in Barnett’s certified bakery in her backyard guest house. And, it was Barnett who took a sample of the Crescent cookies to Whole Foods in Winston-Salem. They quickly accepted the cookie in their store, and the business began to boom. With the local Whole Foods stores selling Crescent cookies, Smith searched for a larger bakery space. Smith, like many local start bakers, was challenged to find a space that could support her. Greensboro doesn’t have a community kitchen to encourage growth in the local, entrepreneurial food producing economy. After a long search, they landed at the event center on Wendover Avenue, which was their happiest moment along the way.
When the business began to “get serious,” Smith reached out to a team to support her next steps. “It’s the most unlikely group of bakers,” Smith says. The core baking team is make up Smith’s parents, Tibe and Tom Payne, and friend Traci Oliver.
While Tom — wearing a “master sous chef” apron — cranked out cookies, he admitted none of the staff had prior baking experience. Laura’s mother, Tipe, claimed Tom had never made a sandwich.
Smith is a perfectionist, creative and a baker. Tom, a retired manufacturing manager at VF Corp., wants the operation to work faster. Accepting the demands of the grocery industry is the company’s greatest challenge.
“Here, you don’t spend much time on a business plan,” Tom says.
The baking process is labor-intensive because Smith insists on maintaining the handmade process. This includes a double dusting and dipping in powdered sugar, of which the bakery averages about 120 pounds per week. The traditional Middle Eastern recipe includes basic ingredients of flour, butter and sugar. Crescent cookies gets creative with the recipe, making a variety of flavors including Traditional Pecan, Chocolate Chip, Lemon White Chocolate and a seasonal Harvest Spice.
Crescent cookies are sold in packages and by the pound at eight Whole Foods stores and specialty shops across the state.
Smith insists the cookies aren’t just for holidays, though she anticipates a business increase of about 60 percent during the holiday season. Check them out for your next family affair.