Cookie Dough Creamery
What happened to Cookie Dough Creamery?

The short story is we were victims of being in a dying mall. During our four years operating we witnessed a parade of other businesses in the mall close up shop and leave. The owners of the mall put the mall up for sale in 2019, but the decline of the mall had become so bad that the only buyer they could find did not want the building. They just wanted the land. The new owner bought it in November 2019 with plans to tear down most of the mall in order to build two 10 story office buildings in its place. The building had little to no value as a shopping center anymore, and as an ice cream business that feeds off of the foot traffic of other businesses, we felt the decline hard.

During our first two years there, while there was still a decent amount of retail activity, we were doing well. In 2017 we did $449K in sales. For a point of reference, according to their 2019 FDD, Cold Stone Creamery states that only 40% of their locations do more than $421K in sales (the average for all their stores). So our sales while the mall still had some life left would have put us in the upper tier of Cold Stone Creamery locations.

But as we witnessed the foot traffic decline as the parade of stores leaving the mall continued, we saw our sales decline with it. In the end our location was no better than being in a cheap strip mall, which would have been fine for us had we only been paying cheap strip mall rent. But we weren't. We were paying "Lifestyle Center" rent of over $40 per square foot.

With the lack of foot traffic from other businesses that we were paying high rent to be around, we were essentially throwing money down the drain every month, which made it impossible for us to make a profit, despite our sales in 2019 being healthy for an ice cream shop. In 2019 we did $245K in sales. For a point of reference, according to their 2019 FDD, Cold Stone Creamery states that the bottom 20% of their locations average $239K in sales. Had a Cold Stone Creamery been in our dead mall location, it likely would have done less sales than us. Which shows that despite our location issue, people loved our brand as much or more than the Cold Stone Creamery brand. Our issue was being in a dead location with high rent, and not lack of brand appeal.

We did many things to attempt to increase our sales as we saw our sales declining. We increased our advertising spending. We developed new flavors. We developed new products. We even developed a pop up restaurant that would operate during our slow times. But in the end the sale of the mall ended up being the last nail in our coffin.

The original owners of the mall were very easy to work with. Willing to listen and accomadate to help our business improve. The new owners, not so much. In fact, they were not at all. At the time of the sale we did not know of their intentions to tear down the mall. But in hindsight, the way we were treated by them was because what we needed to do in order to succeed there did not line up with their plans at all.

The final straw was when they denied our request to add additional menu items to our location. One issue every ice cream shop suffers from is that more than two thirds of all ice cream in the world is consumed after 3 pm, meaning being required to be open from 11 AM to 3 PM everyday means we operate for 4 hours every day most times at a loss as we pay more in labor to be open than we make in revenue. Lunch time is a not an ice cream eating time for most people. So we developed a "pop up restaurant" that would operate from 11 AM to 2:30 PM weekdays. It was called "Coney Way" and would serve "Cincinnati Style Chili" (see: ConeyWay.com). However, the new owners declined to give us permission to do it because one of their other tennants, Panera Bread, has chili as one of the many items on their menu. Panera Bread is located in the small section of the mall they did not intend to tear down, so obviously they did not want to let us do anything that could possibly upset a tennant they intended to keep. As such, as excited as we were to see Coney Way launch and see if the public would love it as much as Cookie Dough Creamery, it never saw the light of day.

That was the moment we realized we were powerless to avoid being the next business in the parade of businesses that closed up in that mall. No matter what we did, nor how hard we tried, it was unavoidable. It was a difficult pill to swallow, despite how true it was. Many tears were shed. My wife and I were not rich people. We invested our life savings to build out that location. All of our eggs were in that basket, and now it was all gone. And perhaps the hardest part was knowing we had created a brand that was loved by the public as much or more than Cold Stone Creamery, and the many broken hearts that resulted from our closing, especially the heart of our beloved manager Mandy, and her kids who worked so hard for the store.

We weren't perfect. We made mistakes. Just like all entrepreneurs do. And like entrepreneurs do we worked hard to move past and overcome every mistake, which we were able to do every time... except for one... the mistake of choosing The Shops at Worthington Place as our location.

And then to pour salt in our wounds, just days after we closed for the last time, the pandemic arrived. Which was followed a few months later by the passing of my mom. Needless to say 2020 was a really bad year for us.

We miss you all, especially Mandy and all of our employees. Thank you all so much for the great memories, especially those "Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast" days.

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