By Britney Nguyen
After several attempts to make a cookie that tasted like her grandmother’s pecan pie, Tonya Council was about to throw out another batch of cookies when her mom stopped her. You’ve got something, her mom told her after trying a cookie.
Council is the owner of Tonya’s Cookies, and her grandmother was Mama Dip, or Mildred Council, the famous owner of Mama Dip’s Kitchen in Chapel Hill.
Tonya’s airy and crunchy cookies were more like pecan crisps, but they still tasted just like Mama Dip’s pecan pie – and were just as delicious.
“She’s known for her pecan pie, so I sought to make a cookie that tastes like it,” Council said.
Council was waiting tables at Mama Dip’s in 2008 when she started playing around with different recipes for her pecan cookies.
Her goal was to fill up an empty bakery case, but when she started putting her new pecan cookies in the case, she said customers told her she should package them and sell them.
“A couple of months later I started researching how to package them,” Council said. “I went to NC State to learn how to make the nutritional labels.”
In 2009, Tonya started her eponymous business: Tonya’s Cookies.
The pecan crisp that tastes like Mama Dip’s famous pecan pie was the first cookie she sold. Over time, she expanded the menu with chocolate pecan crisps, a peanut brittle cookie and a chocolate peppermint pecan crisp for the Christmas season.
“The reason why I started with a crisp is because everyone can do a chocolate chip cookie, but not everyone can do a pecan one,” Council said.
Council uses pecans from Carolina Nutcracker in North Carolina and tries to source most of her ingredients from local farms and businesses.
Southern Season in Chapel Hill was her first account. She also sold her cookies at The Pig in Chapel Hill.
“I pretty much sell to a lot of mom-and-pop shops,” Council said.
For a while, Tonya’s Cookies were on the shelves of Whole Foods markets throughout North Carolina and Georgia. When Amazon purchased Whole Foods, Council stopped working with them because the partnership would be more complicated.
“I have another business called ‘Sweet Tea & Cornbread’,” Council said. “It’s a baby Southern Season, and I wanted to start focusing on selling my own products.”
Tonya’s Cookies has stayed small and local – selling at Mama Dip’s and Sweet Tea & Cornbread located in Raleigh, but Council said she has clients all over the country.
“Right now, I hope it will keep growing, and that I will have more and more customers and clients,” Council said. “I’m just hoping to keep it in the market as a different kind of cookie.”
Council said she wants to start making soft-baked cookies alongside her crisps. She also has a new line of candies and brittles that she wants to sell in her store, Sweet Tea & Cornbread.
Tonya’s Cookies have a shelf life of 6 months. Cookie bags, cookie jars and cookie tins are available to order on the Tonya’s Cookies website.
(featured photo via Tonya’s Cookies)