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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Busted! The Rise (and Fall?) of Fat Cookies

Posted By on Tue, Feb 22, 2011 at 12:05 PM

click to enlarge Clem lowers cookies to a customer below. - JESSE HIRSCH
  • Jesse Hirsch
  • Clem lowers cookies to a customer below.

Fat Cookies has become one of the most buzzed-about baking operations in San Francisco, if not the world. Every hour brings dozens of new Twitter followers and Facebook fans, writing things like "Just flew in from the UK will certainly visit!" and "I live nearly as far away from San Fran as possible ― in Germany ― but I hope to visit before the year is out...." Clusters of people stand outside Fat Cookies, taking photos and basking in the glow of the Next Big Thing. And yet, just one week ago co-owners Kathleen and Eve couldn't even get their friends to join the Fat Cookies Facebook group. "We would sit there hitting refresh on the computer, waiting for anybody to join," Kathleen says. "It was very sad." So how did these 20-somethings with day jobs pull off such an enormous PR coup in just one week?

Last Saturday, Kathleen, Eve, and their cohort Clem (last names withheld by request) were sitting around, talking about how good their chocolate chip cookies are. In an inspired fit of whimsy, they dropped a note on a string out of their second-story apartment window: "$1 for a FRESH BAKED COOKIE!! (pull the string if you wish to partake)." The note was attached to a clip. You send up dollars, they lower down cookies ― a cute and inviting gambit.

click to enlarge JESSE HIRSCH
  • Jesse Hirsch

That same day, a blogger for Laughing Squid was hanging out nearby in Dolores Park with friends. He spied their little pulley operation and got a couple pictures, writing it up in a short post. In a now-common Internet tale, the story was snapped up by The Daily What, boingboing, and other megasites that traffic in quirky Web flotsam.

As the story ricocheted around the world, Eve and Kathleen fanned the flames (if unintentionally). They would close up shop for a day or two, leaving coolhunters clamoring at the virtual gate: "When is the next day you will sell them, guys? I want to try them!!!!" After remaining shuttered for a day or two, the girls sent cryptic tweets to their swelling fandom, like "We're thinking tomorrow could be a good day for another flour power hour...." Cue cookie frenzy.

Yesterday, their bubble may have burst.

click to enlarge Fat Cookies: Kathleen (left), Clem, and Eve. - JESSE HIRSCH
  • Jesse Hirsch
  • Fat Cookies: Kathleen (left), Clem, and Eve.

After admitting to SFoodie they have no idea how to keep up with the demand for their product ("This started as a joke!" says Eve), the police stopped by for a friendly visit. If the Fat Cookies crew was unsure what their next step was, the city made it abundantly clear ― no permit, no cookie sales. There had been far too much foot traffic and cash changing hands, and much like Dr. Claw in Brooklyn, Fat Cookies fell on the sword of its own hype machine. In response to the police action, Eve and Kathleen issued us an official statement: "We're definitely going to respect our neighbors and the law but we're not entirely ready to stick a fork in Fat Cookies just yet. Keep an eye out."

Amidst the hubbub, one question no one seems to be asking: Are the cookies good? SFoodie can attest that they are moist, generously chipped, not too sweet, a solid home-baked effort. But really, the cookies are kind of beyond the point.

Keep updated on future developments at the Fat Cookies Facebook page.

New York refugee Jesse Hirsch tweets at @Jesse_Hirsch. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Jesse Hirsch

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