ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The brainchild of Amy Lugo, Cookie Colab fuses Lugo’s background in graphic design with her Aunt Mary’s homemade butter cookie recipe.
Working out of her home kitchen in Ann Arbor, Lugo started her small business in December 2019 after making her aunt’s butter cookies for a friend’s baby shower. The cookies were a hit and Lugo decided to take the leap.
Since then she has quietly been growing Cookie Colab’s reputation around town by supplying community members with personalized treats for holiday events, small parties and virtual gatherings.
“I’ve had a lot of great support, and success, from local Ann Arbor businesses, like York and Rock Paper Scissors,” Lugo said. “I feel like they have given me an opportunity to reach an audience that I, normally, wouldn’t have had this quickly.”
Right before the COVID-19 pandemic, Lugo did her first Cookie Colab pop-up for Valentine’s Day 2020. This Friday, she’ll help York celebrate Valentine’s Day early with a themed collaborative pop-up from 5-8 p.m.
Her homemade cookies aren’t what a lot of people expect from highly stylized cookies.
“If you search ‘decorated cookie’ on Instagram, there’s just amazing cookie artists out there and so much stuff that people are doing,” she said. “But they’re doing it with royal icing, which dries hard. So as a media, it makes it super easy to layer colors and paint on. It doesn’t dent or crack, but the buttercream is very delicate.”
That buttercream also tastes better and, along with a butter cookie base, is what makes Cookie Colab cookies so good. They may be trickier to work with (and designs can easily be smushed) but the combination means that Lugo’s cookies have style and substance.
Cookie Colab designs originally started out on holiday cookies when Lugo would bake with her daughter. She said that every holiday, she would try to one-up herself and push boundaries with what she could do.
Now, boundary-pushing includes using new techniques, like airbrushing realistic cookie planets or drawing cartoon characters.
Lugo also gets creative with her cookie cutters. If she doesn’t have what she needs for a specific design or stencil, she uses a 3-D printer to make a customized one.
Lugo may eventually incorporate different kinds of sweet treats into her brand but, quoting a friend of hers, she said she doesn’t need other cookies. Aunt Mary’s butter cookies are crowd-pleasers. They’re cute and tasty.
“It’s just so yummy,” she said.
Down the road, Lugo plans to expand Cookie Colab outside of her home kitchen, which operates under Michigan Cottage Law.
“I’ve definitely maxed out my capacity for storage space and how much I can produce for a single oven,” she said, adding that even though she’s upgraded to a double oven, a bigger kitchen is needed as the small business grows.
Cookie Colab workshops focusing on cookie decorating techniques are also in the works, but community members will have to wait a little while. Lugo is waiting until things can be done safely in-person or until she can figure out a virtual platform.
Learn more about the small Ann Arbor business at www.cookiecolab.com