VOL. 132 | NO. 215 | Monday, October 30, 2017
Whimsy Expands Into Franchises
By Andy Meek
The co-owner of a Memphis-based cookie company with one retail store in East Memphis is about to turn her simple recipe for sweet treats into a nationwide enterprise.
Whimsy Cookie Co. founder and co-owner Laurie Suriff said she’s on the verge of launching a franchise-based expansion for the business she started in 2006 out of her home. The plan is to replicate the Whimsy model – built around a pink, whimsically designed experience inside the store and thick sugar cookies with colorful frosting – starting with a location opening in Little Rock in December.
Several other cities, after opening an additional store in Fayetteville, Arkansas, would hopefully come after that. Suriff’s husband, Aaron, a financial adviser up until five months ago for Morgan Stanley, is helping her on the franchise side of her ambitions via the establishment of a holding company – Pink Laurie Brands – for the franchises.
Whimsy Cookie Co. co-owner Laurie Suriff is preparing a major expansion of her Memphis-based cookie business, Whimsy Cookie Co., that will take the brand nationwide. (Submitted)
Aaron Suriff said there are about a dozen or so locations being looked at as potential homes for a Whimsy franchise, including Nashville, Chattanooga and in Colorado, to name a few places. In January, the company will start actively soliciting individuals to buy franchises.
“I made a decision to franchise, which we’ve been talking about for awhile, myself and my husband,” said Laurie Suriff, whose co-owner is Collins Tuohy. “The main thing is we have such an incredible product. They are sugar cookies that are unlike any other, and we just keep getting a lot of requests for cookies from all over. Especially in the South, which we love, of course. So we decided we wanted to bring them to more areas and get them out there. And we’re just so excited to do that.”
The quality of the product is what Laurie and Aaron say is driving the ability to expand. Aaron points to cookie businesses like Great American Cookies and Mrs. Fields, brands that he says have been able to build the kind of footprint they have, if not because of the product, then because of consistency.
But consistency and quality are the watchwords guiding Whimsy’s imminent expansion. It’s one reason, for example, that though Whimsy does a brisk custom order business in Memphis, the franchises will not be doing that.
“Because it’s so detailed, and so much work goes into it,” Laurie says about the custom orders. That’s why the goal is to have the franchises focus on replicating, first and foremost, the Whimsy brand and product.
Representatives of marketing agency Farmhouse and Graham Reese Design Group, working with Whimsy on the expansion, both echo that sentiment. Walk into the Whimsy store at 4704 Poplar Ave., and it’s all pink and frilly, with chandeliers and similar touches.
Guests in the new stores will encounter that same presentation. “As a franchise,” said Graham Reese, owner of Graham Reese Design, “they needed to establish design standards for a powerful guest experience. Guests need to know they are walking into Whimsy Cookie Co.
“So we’re taking the look they have now and upgrading it. We’re choosing lighting, artwork and wall coverings to make it specific to the store in order to reinforce their brand and who they are.” Says Farmhouse principal Ben Fant, “Working alongside the owners and the design team, we’re reinforcing the brand through signage, merchandise, swag and other guest touch-points. “Anything bearing the Whimsy brand will be designed and sourced to ensure consistency of message and material,” Fant said. “Each location needs consistency in experience.”
When you walk through the door at Whimsy, Laurie explained, you’re supposed to feel “magical.” “I have such a passion for this and getting to know my clients,” she said. “It’s a thrill to see their face when they get a Whimsy cookie.”