When Debbi Fields opened the first Mrs. Fields in 1977, it wasn’t all sunshine and cookies. Between her lack of business experience and the unorthodox business model—selling only cookies—not many people believed in her. More than 30 years and a global franchise later, it’s safe to say the doubters are eating their words, at least when they're not busy stuffing their faces with one of Debbi's signature semisweet chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin and walnut cookies.
The wild popularity of Mrs. Fields's cookies can be attributed to the richness of their basic ingredients: real butter, whole eggs, and special blends of chocolate. Classic flavors include chewy fudge, peanut butter, and white chocolate macadamia, and seasonal flavors complement the lineup throughout the year. Select varieties can also be made into cookie cakes of various sizes and shapes that add a delicious twist to any celebration or milk-truck spill.
Fans of Orland Park Bakery know that if they want a chance at tasting one of their favorite pastries, breads, or pies, they'll need a calendar. Cream horns fill display cases on Tuesdays, St. Joseph's pastries make an appearance every Wednesday, and fruit pies are only available on Saturdays and Sundays. But the savvy bakers don't limit production out of stinginess: it takes time to bake each pastry, pie, and loaf of bread fresh every day, which is exactly how they've been doing things for the past 30 years. And so, on any given day, customers might find loaves of butter crust white bread, Swedish limpa rye, and maple apple nut loaf occupying the vary spaces where Irish soda bread, cherry nut cylinders, and loaves of seven grain sat just the day before. They'll also find rich Danish dough transformed into sweet coffee cakes with fillings that could include cheese, almond, or plum, depending on the season, as well as cupcakes topped with creamy peanut butter buttercream, strawberry whipped cream, or even cookie dough. The bakery's selection of mini-pastries––which includes éclairs, brownies, and blueberry tarts–-is available every day, as are cream pies to the great delight of the town's mischievous clown population. Of course, if customers are looking for something special, they can always call ahead and place a custom order, which the bakery accepts for everything from its daily breads to the sweet, filled paczkis it bakes throughout lent. Behind the scenes, professional cake decorators work on custom orders for everything from birthdays to graduations, and the team is particularly proud of the elegant designs they've produced for weddings, which have included rich, sugar-scroll work or towering tiers of pearl-covered fondant.
The Wetzel name wasn’t always a source of pride. As a kid, Rick Wetzel grew accustomed to hearing, “Hey Wetzel, you pretzel!” on the playground. But the teasing inspired a quest for the tastiest soft pretzel, one that eventually blossomed into Wetzel’s Pretzels. After years in Nestle’s marketing department, Rick and coworker Bill Phelps channeled Rick’s soft-pretzel recipe into a chain of shops. They make hand-rolled, oven-baked pretzels that sit for only 30 minutes before being sold or chucked, an example that might be in the dictionary under "fresh," if Babe Ruth using his bat as a pool cue weren't already there. And though the buttered and salted Wetzel’s Original still occupies a spot on the menu, a flurry of imaginative flavors fills its other slots, from Sinful Cinnamon to Jalaroni, a cheesy pretzel scattered with pepperoni and jalapeños.
For years, Julie Scianna’s celiac disease left her uncomfortable and bloated—until she eliminated gluten. The advice made her feel better almost immediately. However, finding gluten-free food to sustain her new diet proved easier said than done. To solve this problem for fellow celiac sufferers, Julie, in collaboration with Chef Andrew Hebda now makes gluten-free treats widely available through OMG…It’s Gluten Free. The restaurant’s entirely gluten- and peanut-free menu includes café items such as lasagna, pizza, and corn dogs along with bakery classics such as cinnamon rolls and brownies. In addition to the main café in Frankfort, Julie also distributes her gluten-free treats at various locations in eight states.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
Cocktails and cake were always two of Tracey Glover's guiltiest pleasures. When she discovered that her friends felt the same way, Glover tinkered with the idea of combining the two. Fast-forward to the opening of Guilty Pleasurez Cocktail Cupcakes, the culmination of Glover's passion for sweets and spirits. Here, she custom bakes cocktail cupcakes: alcohol-infused treats that mimic the flavors of popular mixed drinks.
Depending on the order, Glover may bake chocolate and caramel cupcakes that taste of Baileys Irish Cream or whip up a batch of fuzzy navels that, like the piñata at a 21st birthday party, come filled with peach schnapps and orange Patrón. She also makes alcohol-free versions of many flavors, and every batch is a custom job.