This time of year is not only beloved for Christmas music, trees and lights, but also the sweet treats unique to the season; and Smitholator Cookie Shop has just the fix to more than satisfy the sweet tooth that beckons.
At Smitholator Cookie Shop in downtown Mesa, owners, husband and wife, Travis and Heather Smith, specialize in creating custom cookies and have been baking delicious confections with personalized customer service since 2014.
Smitholator (stylized SMiTH-O-LATOR) customers can choose from chocolate chip, s’mores, their signature soft sugar with vanilla buttercream, toasted coconut, and more. They also have gluten friendly options including vegan and dairy free flavors. The cookie shop fulfills customized personal and corporate orders—even more so around the holidays. Smith said she has done a wide array of decorations, from company logos to faces to animals. For the holiday season, customers can enjoy freshly baked holiday-themed cookies decorated with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, candy canes, a Christmas sweater, reindeer or try a gingerbread flavor cookie or decorate a personal-sized gingerbread house.
Smith said when she started her cookie-decorating hobby, she opened an Etsy shop where she sold her cookies and had a blog. What she hadn’t anticipated, was that the business name, Smitholator, would come from those interests.
“It was a play on our last name and mid-century the way we name appliances…it was meant to be a goofy way to name my blog then people would start asking for Smitholator cookies. They started identifying that name with what I was creating,” she said.
The Smiths took that idea and grew it by opening a storefront shop in downtown Mesa. Prior to opening the store, the Mesa residents would walk downtown and see “For Sale” or “For Lease” signs along Main Street.
We thought, “If we’re going to do a shop, what better place?” The Smitholator owner and baker explained the juxtaposition of old and new: as the light rail intersects historical buildings in downtown Mesa. Smith said the mix of modern and traditional elements was a reason she and Travis decided to open the shop in Mesa on Main Street.
“That ties in a lot I think with our brand identity. I couldn’t think of another place where I would want this to live,” Smith said.
The quaint shop has a mixture of 1950s touches and modern details.
“The personality or branding is my fascination with mid-century and modern design. I asked my husband when he was picking out the colors, to make it look like it was frosting, it would taste good,” Smith recalled when speaking of the pastel colors decorating the shop.
“We wanted to have a kind of ice cream shop or grandma’s house mix and make people feel comfortable and get the idea right away that you’re going to have really good, sweet treats when you come in.”
Smitholator’s branding is unique as well; their logo features an appliance with unfrosted sugar cookies on one side as a woman standing by the appliance pulls out decorated cookies on the other.
“Our logo is based on an appliance called the Toast-O-Lator…my husband thought: ‘What if we can tie in that gadget and put a cookie in it and a decorated cookie pops out?’…it’s a fantasy that there’s this little Smitholator contraption that does what the Toast-O-Lator did,” Smith said.
In addition to baking cookies, Smitholator offers holiday cookie and gingerbread decorating workshops. The workshops are usually six people or less for people 16 and older. Smith said she and her colleague will already have the cookies made, icing prepped and the decorations on the table before instructing them step by step in the cookie decorating process. Afterward, everyone goes home with six cookies they decorated and a gift box. She said they introduce new techniques in each workshop to give a variety for repeat customers. They are offering one more cookie and one gingerbread decorating workshop in December.
They also have a gingerbread house kit for all ages. Smith said they preassemble a personal gingerbread in a kit, which comes with frosting and candy. People can decorate at Smitholator in a workshop or take the kit home and decorate it.
Smith said she has another style of cookie decorating where she outlines the cookie in frosting and people can buy the icing bag to decorate for parties.
She said having a physical storefront has helped her build relationships with her customers and solidified Smitholator as a trusted brand—from the workshops to fulfilling orders.
“I did have an Etsy storefront for a while and you really don’t have a face to go along with the name or the brand…I knew one of the advantages to having a retail storefront is the trust factor…it legitimizes your brand a little bit more,” Smith said. “The storefront not only increased my ability to make more and have staff, but to have that commercial kitchen.”
She knows a lot of her customers by name.
One such customer is Corissa Sifuentes, who discovered Smitholator and took one of their decorating classes and has been a steady patron since. She has taken private decorating classes with her friends and has bought custom cookies decorated with themes such as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” a 1980s cartoon, and “Mary Poppins.”
“Whatever inspiration pictures I send, they totally nail it,” Sifuentes said of her experience with ordering from Smitholator. “The customer service is great, the people who work there are so positive and happy, you can really tell they love their job.”
She said she keeps going back to Smitholator because she not only likes to support small businesses, but their product is higher quality than that of other bakeries.
“You can definitely tell the quality of their work is better, there it’s very personable and personalized,” Sifuentes said. “I tell everyone about Smitholator…I think it’s so much fun. Her work speaks for itself; I haven’t seen other cookies like hers.”
One of Smith’s inspirations for cookie decorating, Sweet Sugarbelle, who made an impression on her at a conference she attended.
“(Sweet Sugarbelle) said you start to have ‘cookie think.’ You see everything in your day-to-day life that has the potential to be ‘cookiefied.’”
Smith mentions how this translated to her famous last words as stated on Smitholator’s website: “It’s totally true, my famous last words are, ‘That would be a great cookie.’”
In the future, Smith said she wants to offer customers more workshops and classes and to be able to curate more bakery-like items such as aprons and cookie cutters from local artists available in Smitholator for purchase.
Smith will create specialized treats for customers and give them an extra dose of Christmas cheer with each Santa, reindeer, candy cane or gingerbread cookie. When the holiday season is over, Smith will continue baking busily in the kitchen, creating cookies with that personalized Smitholator touch.
Smitholator Cookie Shop is located at 124 W. Main St. To learn more about their cookies and upcoming workshops, visit: Smitholator.com.
– Mesa resident Alyssa Tufts is a freelance reporter for MyNewsMesa.