For anyone to say the following line “I don’t like cookies” pretty much equates that you are Satan or that your head isn’t screwed on right. Cookies are freaking delicious and will always be, besides ice cream, the perfect bite after a delicious dinner or lunch. What’s even better is when said cookie is made properly and delectable all at the same time. A couple of months ago I was with a friend at the Hell’s Kitchen Five Napkin Burger when he wanted to stop by this cookie place right next door called Schmackary’s. I obliged and in joining him at Schmackary’s discovered this quaint and beautiful bakery of sorts; filled with tons of locals, tourists and of course… cookies. The cookie flavors themselves were unique in their own way and had great names for them to boot (Ginger Rogers, Sweet Corn, Chocolate Diablo, Monster). They also had traditional flavors as well, my favorite being the insanely tasty Maple Bacon as you get a strong taste of maple at first then the bacon seeps its way shortly after. Tasty, tasty, tasty.
After reading generally fantastic reviews about Schmackary’s as well as hearing a ton of fanfare from friends and relatives about the location, I decided to sit down with owner Zachary Schmahl about his booming success. I have a huge amount of respect for people who are not only self taught but self made, and Zachary is the prime example of someone who wasn’t in this particular line of work, had an idea, made it blossom and now is reaping the benefits of his labors. Definitely an inspirational story in my book. Take a look.
So Zachary tell me how did the concept of Schmackary’s initially start?
Basically the concept kind of started from the fact that I am a HUGE cookie monster. As a kid I just loved baking cookies & eating them as well as they were my favorite thing. Later on in life this all came about because I use to make cookies for friends in my house and I would make all these weird & crazy flavors because I had such a fun time experimenting as I was never a fan of the classics like chocolate chip. I’m a bit of a foodie when it comes to my experimentation, and it would pay off because when my friends would try them the response was “THESE ARE AMAZING!”.
After a while collectively they would tell me that I have to sell these cookies, which I didn’t really understand. Why would I sell these cookies? At the time I was working for a marketing firm and enough people had told me that I should sell these cookies that I was like, “Hmm. Well If I start selling these cookies how would I do it?” I started thinking of cookies being this old Americana dessert. You know there is this fad of cupcakes, macaroons, cronuts and all that stuff but cookies are a staple and has been an American tradition for who knows how long. A lot of times bakeries don’t take a lot of pride in their cookies because their thought process is like, “Well everyone likes cookies, they’ve been around for years” but don’t do much outside of the ordinary. My thought process became what if a Normal Rockwell type stepped into a cookie shop, and that was where the concept was formed. Very old fashioned bakeshop from our parents childhood yet its designed for the ADD generation. We have all these crazy flavors that you would never find in that shop, yet it’s a throwback to the old school with items like a chalkboard & reclaimed wood so it looks like its on the edge of gritty. I come all the way from Nebraska so I like to bring some of that homey charm to the city which is why when people walk in they really don’t get a sense that this place reads NYC at all.
When was the first year that Schmackary’s opened?
I started out of my 400 square foot apartment in 2011, and a year later I opened up this store in May 2012. I am someone who is not classically trained and simply did this because I love what I do so much that it just comes out of my pores and I hope to inspire others. My main advice to other people when they are looking to start a business is that you have to believe more than anything else that this is the one thing that you were meant to do in your entire life and make other people believe it.
This may sound obvious given your first name but how did you come up with the name for Schmackary’s?
Well my name is Zachary Schmahl. Back in high school, I had this friend that would always call me “Zachary Schmackary” which just seemed to fit and everyone else joined in and started calling me that. Schmackary’s wasn’t the only choice when it came to picking a name for the company. I had another one called “The Cookie Dealer” because I used to deliver cookies to people’s doors. I thought it was funny because I was delivering cookies like somebody delivering drugs, and the tagline would be something like “There is a new drug in town”. Schmackary’s was a more family friendly name, so I went with that instead.
There are so many great boroughs for a cookie location, why Hell’s Kitchen?
Well I live four blocks from the location here (45th Between 8th and 9th) and before it became Schmackary’s this was actually a fried chicken joint. When I was using my apartment to bake the cookies I realized that I needed to find another location because I was making so many cookies out of my place and needed to take this business to the next level. I just happened to be walking by here one day and saw that it closed. I thought that this would be the perfect location for Schmackary’s, it was a bit serendipitous in the timing of it. I looked at other locations as well, but I thought that it was divine intervention or something that this was the first place that i looked at and ultimately made happen. It was very odd and fortuitous that it came to fruition.
Let’s hypothetically say that I am an out of towner who has never heard or experienced Schmackary’s before. What would you recommend them trying? Like, give me three cookie flavors they should devour?
You see usually I recommend having them get a dozen and try out a bunch of different ones! It is so hard to narrow that down for me. Since we we are the midst of the holiday season I would try the Ginger Rogers is awesome. It is my take on a frosted ginger cookie and has white chocolate, cinnamon chips and a bunch of different spices in it with a really nice glaze on top. Delicious. The Maple Bacon has a cult following to the point where I don’t even need to push that cookie for people to buy it. It sells itself on its own. We candy the bacon, so its sweet at first then get the smoky flavor at the end. A personal favorite are the oatmeal cookies. Most places the oatmeal ones suck because they are always hard. Ours have a ton of cinnamon in them and are super chewy and delicious. Two oatmeal cookies I would recommend anyone getting are the Oatmeal Scotchie and The Monster as they are on point. They are ones that I am super proud of.
Every single day we do one oatmeal cookie, one chocolate cookie, one gluten free cookie, one peanut butter cookie and more to where we have 12 different flavors and then the next day it changes. So overall we have 24-27 flavors each month, and at the end of every month we change the menu except keeping the four classics which are maple bacon, funfetti, classic chocolate chip and red velvet. They are the only ones that are standard.
I interviewed a well known bakery here in Manhattan and discussed the cupcake craze that has happened over the past decade or so. Why do you think that hasn’t really happened in the cookie world yet?
I think honestly when you are saying “craze” it really means a fad. There are things that are popular for a hot second that you can be on the edge of that and benefit from it, but I have no doubt that the cupcake craze is on its way out. It has peaked is what I mean. Certain cupcake shops that do it really well will be around for a long time. However, the people who got in on it and was like “This is going to be the best fad ever!” kind of peaked and we are seeing larger chains that aren’t doing well due to this being just that. Unless you do it really well or have national exposure like the Georgetown Cupcakes then you aren’t going to be around that long. I don’t think people have viewed cookies as a craze because they have been around forever and that people haven’t really gotten out of the box and done something creative with them. You go to a place like Sprinkles where they are infusing crazy flavors into their cupcakes and I’m like, why is no one doing these to cookies? They are easier to impart flavors than cheating by putting extracts into them. Taking complex ingredients and flavor profiles are more fascinating than the basics. I’m sure there are plenty of people who see what we are doing and think we are onto something which is true because you don’t see what we do as an everyday type of thing.
You are a one shop physically, however do you have an online shop?
We do! We ship all over the country as well as do a bunch of collaborations with other businesses locally, especially the Broadway businesses. Every May we do this thing called “Broadway Bakes” which was a way to raise money for “Broadway Cares”. We simply asked a ton of people on Broadway if they would help at our location and everyone said yes. I was shocked. At one point we had Audra McDonald working behind the counter which we had a line down the street for her. The first year we raised 10K for charity and the second year we raised 15K. Even Tom Hanks stopped in one night when he was doing his thing on Broadway, and we have delivered our cookies to megastars like Emma Stone and Bradley Cooper to name a few. Kristin Chenoweth has become one of the biggest advocates for Schmackary’s and tweets at us all the time. Insane!
In conclusion, what would you say is your ultimate goal for Schmackary’s?
Good question! The plan is to open two more stores over the next year. One will be in Brooklyn the other in Manhattan. We really want to develop a firm foundation in New York City then take the show on the road. There is something special about this and people who walk in here can see it. It isn’t just a one off because people ask us all the time, “Is this a chain?” There is something familiar and secure about Schmackary’s and we want to create that atmosphere of feeling professional like that yet you are in your home away from home. Every single foodie city and college area can benefit from this. The bottom line is I just don’t want to lose the heart that we started with and still have to this day. Beyond having an awesome product, our company has a lot of heart and is something that I never want to lose.
Check out more on Schmackary’s by logging onto their official site!