At The Daily, I’m a news writer. When times are better, I write for arts (gallery reviews, TV reviews, film reviews, etc.) I’m committed to my section, and I believe I help make The Daily more readable, informative, and forward-thinking when it comes to coverage. But sometimes I just wanna have fun, and try something new.
When one of my writers couldn’t accept an article about John “The Cookie Guy”, the newest entrepreneur on campus, I used the opportunity to “shadow” him for a night as he delivered his wares, and chatted him up about his history. It was decided that the article would be kind of “features-y”, but still “newsy”. The first draft was over 1,500 words long (iknowright??), and the second, more “newsy” rendition was considerably shorter. What was printed are my words, but not necessarily in the original order I composed them. Perhaps I was being “too featuresy”, and I admit I did leave “Daily style” blowing in the wind. But it was fun, and I’m happy to have stretched my expository muscles, or at least remember that they’re there somewhere…buried under all that fat…
So, here’s the latest article for the Tufts Daily. Something fun and upbeat, purposeful and downright delicious. Big ups to John over at Have A Sweet Idea for being so willing to let a girl with a Blackberry recording device follow him around on a Saturday night! And for the record, the cookies are FREAKING AMAZING.
MORE ORIGINAL PICS FROM THE NIGHT AT THE END OF THIS POST/ SLIDESHOOOW!
If you have a hankering for a handful of cookies, John “The Cookie Guy” Piermarini has recently set up shop to serve up a solution to those sweet cravings. In just two weeks, the man behind Sweet Idea cookies has already made a splash on campus.
Since Jan. 26, Piermarini has been biking around campus selling cookies on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. in an effort to turn his passion for baking cookies into a full-time job.
“‘Sweet Idea’ is something I say in my everyday life,” Piermarini said. “It’s a catchy name, but it’s not easy to yell out.”
Piermarini, who graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 2010 with a B.S. in computer science and a minor in creative writing, is now following his passion for cookies after quitting his job at IBM upon realizing that he did not enjoy programming as much as he previously thought.
“I sold cookies my senior year of college at RIT,” Piermarini said. “After school, I got a job at IBM. I didn’t like programming as much in the real world as I thought I would, so I thought, what could I do to make money and still enjoy my work? So I figured I’d start the cookie thing again.”
Now, he is testing out recipes in the kitchen and continuing development on his business’ website, putting his computer science degree to good use, all in an effort to build Sweet Idea into his career.
Piermarini sells six cookies for five dollars and delivers them for free to a designated delivery zone, which consists mostly of the Medford/Somerville campus and some surrounding streets. He currently offers chocolate chip cookies and snicker doodles which can be ordered by texting his phone, though online ordering is in the works.
Piermarini said that Sweet Idea took four months of planning.
“When I was still working for IBM, I was saving up money so I could do this,” he said. “Around July or August, I knew I was done. I started to stockpile to get ready. I didn’t think September would be when I was going to quit. I thought it’d be January.”
Piermarini has not done any traditional advertising for Sweet Idea but can credit much of his success on the Hill to word of mouth and social media, including his use of Twitter, the Boston Reddit page and his blog.
“All the advertising I’ve done was make a post on Reddit Boston,” he said. “That’s how most people heard about it, and word of mouth. I use Twitter to tell people where I am on campus, and to tell people what I have.”
Sophomore Jay Dodd, a frequent customer of Piermarini’s, agreed that Piermarini’s use of social media gives him a familiar vibe, which aids in students’ willingness to buy from him.
“He is using Twitter, text, modes of communication that people are using, and to top it off, the cookies are great,” Dodd said. “So you have great cookies, a business plan, convenience … and he’s personable … I think it shows [you should] do what you’re good at but don’t be afraid to do what you’re great at.”
Piermarini, who has a food permit from the City of Boston, said that he bakes out of a commercial kitchen in Jamaica Plain called CropCircle Kitchen
“The kitchen is a shared commercial kitchen for culinary entrepreneurs who want to get started in the food business but don’t have that sort of capital,” he said. “It’s sort of pricey, but you wouldn’t be able to get your business off the ground otherwise.”
Piermarini added that many Boston food trucks, including the Roxy’s Grilled Cheese truck, operate out of CropCircle Kitchen.
The total cost of ingredients, the CropCircle Kitchen rent and licensing was in the range of $3,000-$5,000, according to Piermarini.
At RIT, Piermarini prepared his cookies by hand in his apartment and his venture went by “Two Cookies One Buck,” capitalizing on the fame of a certain Internet video.
“The connotation was totally intentional,” Piermarini said.
Piermarini said that he is wary about expanding given the increased demands that doing so would entail.
“I don’t know where I’ll be expanding next,” he said. “There may be some weeks I take a night off here and try to build on another campus. The expansion problem is an interesting one. You’ve got to be personable; that means I can’t just hire anyone.”
Although he is easily recognized by his trademark orange jumpsuit, Piermarini added that he is looking forward to ditching that attire as spring approaches.
“It’s going to be really fun when it gets warm, I won’t have to wear the jumpsuit,” Piermarini said.
He added that he wants to become a prominent figure on the Tufts campus.
“I try to be as visible as possible and be in everyone’s head,” he said. “I want to be like the Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts — there’s one on every corner.”
Piermarini went on to say that although he is becoming more recognizable, some students are still confused by his presence.
“They either know who I am or who the guy in the jumpsuit is, or they’re wondering, ‘Who the f–k is this guy riding around on my campus?'” he said. “Someone will inevitably yell ‘Hey, cookie guy!'”
Junior Gabrielle Thomas remains skeptical about the staying power of Sweet Idea on campus.
“I think it’s an odd thing and people are only doing it because it’s here,” she said. “What happens once the hype dies down?”
Piermarini said he has tested new products, such as sandwiches, on his “frequent customers.” He plans to incorporate other snacks soon into his trade.
“I’ll enjoy this for now, and someone else will in the future,” he said. “That’s what it’s about, I want people to have a good time. It sucks when you’re not having a good time!”
Dodd also expressed his enthusiasm for Piermarini continuing his successful efforts into the future.
“He’s the man simply because he has an idea and is committed to it,” Dodd said. “The reason Moe’s [worked] is because you have kids who go out and party and want to eat. They want comfort food. [Sweet Idea] is tapping into a market that’s not tapped into.