The pandemic has caused many to seek new methods of stress relief, and Janaha Anderson is no exception — but she is unique in that her chosen outlet ended up changing her life.
Anderson, a dental hygienist, turned to baking when COVID-19 reduced her hours at work in 2020. Conveniently, this timing coincided with her and her husband, John, becoming empty-nesters — meaning that the decade she’d abstained from baking while her wrestler sons were at home and watching their weight was over.
“I’ve always enjoyed baking. I get it from my grandmother,” she said, adding that she has childhood memories of her grandmother arriving for visits with a suitcase full of baking supplies.
In more recent history, it was her grandmother’s cookie recipe that kickstarted a business for Anderson. Having extra dough at the end of a batch, she made one larger cookie that ended up being the prototype for the 6-ounce artisan cookies she began selling at venues and events around town. In addition to looking extra appetizing, she found tripling the size also increased the product’s longevity, keeping it moist and fresh longer.
In case giant cookies didn’t hold enough appeal on their own, Anderson sweetened the situation with the help of her oldest son, using an antique baby stroller and an antique desk to make a cookie cart that she takes to locations like breweries and wineries. (While out with her cart, it’s not uncommon for her to run into patients who, understandably, like to joke about her selling cookies to create cavities that drum up more business for her dental office.)
As demand for her cookies grew, she cut back to three days a week at her day job and, with her husband, made one other massive change: selling their home and moving to a loft apartment. The financial freedom that’s come with this also has allowed for leasing space at 1207 Frederick Ave. that will be the home of St. Joe Cookie Company.
“I love Downtown, so there was no question that’s where I wanted to be,” she said.
Anderson officially formed the business this past summer as a natural progression of her cookie cart’s success. She plans for the bakery to be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and hopes to begin operations in December — although if there’s one lesson she’s learned about building a business during a pandemic, it’s that an extra measure of patience is often mandatory. This has proved true in delays she’s encountered in securing items both big and small, from a convection oven to baking chips.
“That trickle-down effect of the pandemic really hits home,” she said, “especially as a start-up company needing a lot of items right now.”
But she’s not complaining, especially with how quickly she’s gone from having a hobby to having a second career. And as she waits for everything to come together for her bakery’s opening, she has plenty to keep her busy — including learning to navigate city regulations, networking with other business owners and brainstorming new ideas.
The site also offers a sign-up form for the Cookie Club, whose members will receive discounts, freebies and first dibs on different limited-edition cookies that Anderson plans to unveil each month. And for anyone interested in even more, the Cookie Crumbles section details upcoming events such as “Cookies and Cocoa with Mr. and Mrs. Claus” and “Story Time with Santa.”
Other events Anderson looks forward to hosting include baking classes as well as trivia nights and women’s nights — to name just a few of the possibilities she sees.
“Cookies go with everything, I believe,” she said. “So why not cookies and cinema, cookies and cocktails.”
And in all of this, she also envisions spreading the same kind of joy that baking has always brought her.
“There’s something about going into a bakery and smelling the cookies that brings back great memories for me,” she said, “and I want to create that for someone else.”