A tiny, Black-owned, vegan cookie shop in San Diego’s Grantville community is rolling out a special collection of treats for Black History Month inspired by powerful figures in the Black community: Hank Aaron, Debbie Allen, and Amanda Gorman.
The “Black History Month Collection” from Maya’s Cookies includes three different cookies, with each recipe created to reflect its namesake.
Longtime San Diego resident Maya Madsen founded Maya’s Cookies in 2015. She has created Black History Month-inspired cookies in the past but, this time – with everything happening in our world – she told NBC 7 it feels a bit different, in a good way.
“It feels different because so many people are paying attention right now – so many people are listening to us,” Madsen said. “We finally have a voice now. People are invested in social change and they’re conscious about where they want to spend their money.”
The Black business owner said she put a lot of thought into how she would create this year’s Black History Month cookie collection, whom she would honor.
Each cookie recipe – and each inspirational Black figure – holds a special place in her heart. Aaron, Allen and Gorman are each a person Madsen admires.
When Madsen thinks of “Hammerin’ Hank,” she thinks of her husband and three sons who all grew up playing baseball and collecting memorabilia from the Negro leagues.
“This cookie is just so personal to our family – to my boys and their love of baseball culture,” Madsen said.
When she heard of Aaron’s passing, she knew it was time to honor him by baking “The Hank Aaron” cookie. The treat is an ode to classic ballpark snacks and features Crack Jack pieces, roasted peanuts, and butterscotch chips.
Madsen described “The Debbie Allen” as a “hot chocolate cookie” featuring chocolate dough, marshmallow and chocolate sprinkles.
Madsen said she’s always been inspired by the “spunk and funk” of the “Fame” star and recently watched a documentary about the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.
When she learned about Allen’s production, “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” and all it does for young, Black dancers, Madsen knew she had her next cookie creation in the can.
“Allen, to me, exudes Black Girl Magic – she’s an O.G. of Black Girl Magic,” Madsen said.
Madsen’s final Black History Month cookie is a nod to the poet who stole the show at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Southern California resident Amanda Gorman.
“She’s so magical, so articulate, so intriguing,” Madsen said. “Amanda Gorman is current Black Girl Magic.”
“The Amanda Gorman” is a lemon raspberry cookie that Madsen said was inspired by the bright yellow coat and red headband that Gorman wore on Inauguration Day as she read her now-famous poem, “The Hill We Climb.” The raspberries are soaked in lemon juice overnight and the cookie also features a dash of lemon zest and chunks of white chocolate.
Madsen said this cookie honors the possibility that Gorman represents for the Black community: a bright, young Black woman with an Ivy League education who is completely “unstoppable.”
The Black History Month cookies start at $24 per gift box of each kind or $29 for a gift box that includes all three varieties.
Pandemic Growth for Black-Owned Cookie Shop
Madsen, originally of Sacramento, has lived in San Diego with her husband since 1996. The couple raised their three boys here. San Diego is home.
When Madsen started her vegan, gourmet cookie business six years ago, she never imagined how Maya’s Cookies would rise.
She told NBC 7 her business has grown a lot during the pandemic thanks to the shift in everyone ordering everything online.
Plus, during these tough times, who doesn’t want a sweet treat?
“Cookies make people happy,” Madsen said. “Giving people a little bit of joy makes us feel good.”
Madsen said she and her staff of 12 – a perfect dozen, if you will – make thousands of cookies every day out of their little bakery at 4760 Mission Gorge Place. She said the bulk of her business comes from shipping orders cross the U.S.
Last fall, Madsen was able to take her business even further by opening a tiny storefront at her Grantville space – something she never thought she’d do.
Madsen said people in the area would often drop in because they could smell the sweet smell of cookies wafting in the neighborhood. They wanted to know where they could buy the cookies. Madsen would tell them they were available online, but that wasn’t enough. They wanted to buy the cookies in person.
So, she opened the lobby at her Mission Gorge Place bakery and now, the cookies go from rack to lobby to in-person customer in addition to shipping across the country.
Madsen said she’s grateful for the support from San Diegans.
Customers often tell her she’s putting the city on the map with her vegan cookies and they’re proud of the national recognition her shop has been getting.
“The African-American community has come out in droves to support us,” Madsen said. “They really lift me up.”
Madsen said it’s not uncommon to see a line out the door at Maya’s Cookies nowadays.
On Inauguration Day, Madsen said the line seemed never-ending. That day, she offered the “Madame Vice President,” a limited-time cookie inspired by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Madsen said a lot of customers that day were mothers coming in with their daughters, celebrating the incredible history happening before our eyes.
“That really gave me a picture of the importance of this moment,” Madsen said. “We put on our turbo cookie powers and got to work.”
As she “scales up” her cookie business, Madsen told NBC 7 she’s determined to give back.
“I’m a firm believer in taking what you need and then sharing and giving back to the community,” she explained.
To that end, Madsen said Maya’s Cookies is working to support local charities close to her heart – charities that make a difference in the lives of underserved communities.
As Maya’s Cookies continues to grow, Madsen said she is looking to partner with national charities that are also doing important work in underserved communities.
“That’s something that I’m really proud of, that I’m able to do now,” she added.
To learn more about Maya’s Cookies, click here.