A drive by the intersection of Northeast Second Avenue and 73rd Street is bound to be permeated by the scent of sugar and butter thanks to Cindy Kruse’s pink little bakeshop that could: Cindy Lou’s Cookies debuted in the Little River neighborhood in the spring of 2017 — and has become one of Miami’s most popular bakeries. But the road to success wasn’t exactly a smooth one.
In 2012, Kruse started baking cookies full-time out of a garage in Coconut Grove, after spearheading pastry programs at the famed Fontainebleau Miami Beach and the over-the-top Barton G, and working for chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Charlie Trotter, Charlie Palmer, and Jean Georges Vongerichten. The word spread fast about her hearty five-ounce cookies and quiet success soon followed — Kruse acquired a dozen wholesale accounts in the first six months of being in business. She soon set her eyes on owning a cookie shop of her own, which came with its own set of challenges.
After being put on hold for close to six months due to unexpected delays, Cindy Lou’s Cookies opened its Little Haiti storefront in April 2017. But just 10 short days after opening, the street where the bakery resides, Northeast 2nd Avenue, was completely closed for construction for close to 14 months. The storefront was blocked by large machinery and rubble and was completely shut down to cars — making it nearly impossible for guests to reach. Luckily, wholesale orders were still pouring in.
“At the time, we weren’t really ready to be open to the public anyway. We were mainly using our shiny new kitchen for wholesale, so it was kind of okay,” Kruse says. “We didn’t know how long it was going to take, so we just took it week by week and that turned into a year and a half.”
Wholesale accounts at popular establishments around town like Panther Coffee, Verde, and Vice City Bean are what put Cindy Lou’s Cookies on the map — and helped keep the company afloat while it dealt with the ongoing construction in front of her shop.
“A fellow local business owner once told me that when you have a great product it speaks for itself, and so far that’s doing all the talking we need,” said Kruse, who noted that word-of-mouth marketing is the only promotion she’s ever done. “I’m constantly asked what makes my cookies so good and I don’t know what to tell people, other than I eat these cookies every day for lunch, so they have to be delicious.”
The shop is run by a small team — Kruse, her life partner Eric, and two employees that create more than 30 different kinds of cookies, plus several cakes (carrot, coconut, red velvet to name a few), brownie bars, coffee cakes, and various other sweet treats that often rotate based on what’s available and what Kruse is craving.
But right after construction completed on Northeast Second Avenue, another unexpected obstacle nearly stopped everything: the COVID-19 pandemic. But Kruse never let it break her spirit. In fact, she baked even more and would regularly deliver excess cookies to frontline workers at Jackson Hospital.
“We treated the pandemic a lot like we did the construction era of our shop. Just taking it a week at a time. Most of our stuff is grab-and-go, so we were never a full sit down style shop. So the pandemic hit and we took phone orders and would just place them on a table outside,” Kruse says of the minor pivot. “Then some time went by and we were empty and started to get a little scared, but we had all these cookies so we decided to start Cookies for Heroes.”
Cindy Lou’s Cookies ran a Cookies for Heroes promotion for more than a month where she would match cookie orders with donations to frontline workers. “At one point we were baking 1,000 cookies just to deliver to the hospital and we loved it. People were coming back for cookies and we were able to do something good for our community, which is all we ever want.”
“Owning this cookie shop has been both my dream and a crazy journey, but we’ve made it this far because we really never knew how bad things were in the moment,” Krusesays . “We’re so grateful to continue baking these cookies for Miami. Every three months or so we look back and think ‘Oh my God, how did we do it? We survived what?’ but it’s been such a blessing to be supported by so many who keep coming back and enjoying the cookies.”