Sheila Coon of Hot Oven Cookies
By Allison Litera, Photos by Dan Little
Sheila Coon, a mother of seven and grandmother of 10, is equal parts sweetness and strength. She is all about “sharing the cookie love” and appreciates the journey she’s taken to get to where she is today.
The self-proclaimed “cookie nerd” started Hot Oven Cookies in 2016. Originally a cookie delivery business, it has morphed into a mobile cookie cart and a flagship store opening on Main Street in Downtown Springfield this summer.
“Our mission is about more than just insanely delicious cookies,” she says. “It’s also about restored faith and hope, renewed significance and worth, and freedom through the flexibility of business ownership!”
Coon was married for 21 years before she got divorced. After the divorce, she needed a flexible job that would pay the bills and feed the kids.
“I was an average Joe,” she says. “I didn’t have the assets like other professional bakers. With over a decade of experience in the culinary industry and a college degree, I surprisingly couldn’t find anything that fit the bill.”
Coon had worked primarily as a cook and caterer, but she also loved baking. She decided to create her own job opportunity and start a bakery franchise. She drew inspiration from her family.
“When my mom divorced my dad, she started her own warm cookie business,” Coon says. “She influenced me by the way she was able to sustain our family with only fresh baked goods.”
Food was at the center of many of Coon’s large Puerto Rican family gatherings. “Baking cookies made sense,” she says, “especially with so many kids around.”
But Coon wanted her business mission to go beyond baking cookies.
“[Hot Oven Cookies] is a mobile bakery franchise that seeks to empower women and veterans toward attainable and sustainable self-employment through sales of fresh gourmet cookies through our cookie carts and kiosks,” says Coon, who has several veterans in her family, including her husband. She hopes to add several more cookie carts into rotation within the coming months, and already has a few people interested in becoming franchisees.
Those bakers will have their hands full: Hot Oven Cookies has nearly 100 flavors in rotation throughout the year. Coon uses five bases to create varieties like Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, Pecan Chip, Oreo Butterfinger Chip, Guava Cheesecake, and French Toast Bacon Snickerdoodles. The inspiration came from her home kitchen.
“With seven children, not one wanted the same cookie flavor,” she laughs. “I kept a book and wrote down all their flavor requests. It blossomed from there. Some of my favorites are Nutella Truffle Chip, Ice Cream Sundae, and Oatmeal Blueberry Supreme.”
Coon does her best to utilize local ingredients where she can and is always on the lookout for new community partnerships. “We use local milk from Mapleline Farm in Hadley. We also make our own jams and jellies to use in certain cookie flavors.”
But there’s more to a delicious cookie than the flavor.
“For me, it’s not just about buying a cookie. It’s about the experience my customers have,” Coon says. “Seeing the mint green food truck from afar, walking up and reading the menu, catching a whiff of the cookies baking inside the truck.”
If the cookies don’t win you over, she certainly will. Coon’s charisma, huge smile, and motherly charm elevate comfort food to an even more comforting experience. Her cookies are warm, but her personality is warmer.
“When someone bites into a delicious cookie, their whole expression changes,” she says. “They become visually more relaxed and a smile is brought to their face. That is one of the biggest rewards of my business.”
Find Hot Oven Cookies at the Holyoke and South Hadley farmers markets and local events this summer.