Recently, I had the privilege of catching up with the newest bakers in town, Andrea Morgan & Amy Strasser, founders of Zabels Cookies, home of the Naked Cookie. So what exactly is a “naked” cookie? It’s a cookie with no chips, just in case you aren’t feeling chocolate today. These cookies are seriously the best little cookies I have ever tasted, I’m not kidding. There is something special about them, I can’t put my finger on it, but they are Y-U-M! Zabels are tiny little delectable treats that literally melt in your mouth. They come in a variety of flavors including naked, chocolate chip, and both as cookie sandwiches with the perfect amount of cookie dough in the middle. You can order these as gifts, party favors, party platters or just because you’re craving something sweet.
Andrea & Amy are moms and the closest of friends, one likes to bake and one likes to eat – the perfect pair! They are taking the Charlotte baking scene by storm. You can find Zabels at Brooklyn Pizza Parlor, Learning Express or email them for a custom order at email@example.com.
Smarty Alert! Our friends at Zabels Cookies are giving away sweet treats! For everyone who “likes” Zabels on facebook, you will be entered to win a box of treats! Just to cover all bases since facebook has changed their settings for small biz’s (it’s now hard for us to communicate with our fans on facebook – facebook, please change back to the old school way!), also email the Zabels girls with your entry.
Let’s get cozy with Andrea & Amy!
Andrea’s Smarty Mom Stats
Married to: Dwayne for 16 years
Mom of: Brock (11) and Emily (7)
Years in Charlotte: 6
Hometown: Grew up in an Air Force family so traveled all over, but lived the longest with hubby in Birmingham, AL for 10 years
Career in previous life: Managed corporate trust accounts for The Bank of New York, now she’s a culinary goddess and a preschool teacher!
Amy’s Smarty Mom Stats
Married to: Jeff for 9 years
Mom of: Zachary (8), Shayna (6), and Lindsay (3)
Years in Charlotte: 12
Hometown: South Florida and graduated from the University of Florida, GO GATORS! (I am LOVING the orange and blue spilling onto my pink & green site:-)
Career in previous life: She had just completed her Masters degree at UNCC in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. The job market was not great for HR types so she had babies instead. (Sorry, Dad.) Now Amy is a SAHM and new business owner!
How did you get started with Zabels and tell us how you came up with the name?
Andrea: I always loved to bake cookies and everyone seemed to always love them. I have been baking ever since I was in high school. When I stated dating my husband I distinctly remember my father-in-law trying my cookies and saying they were “musty”. I was so shocked and upset, until he explained that you “musty have another”. I will never forget that! Then, when I had children, I would always bake my cookies for my children’s play dates and it only took once for me to bake them for Zachary, Amy’s oldest. They were a hit! Amy’s family would ask for them and I loved doing it. Then, one day while Amy was at my house, I made cookies for my kids and I always made myself a couple that would not have any chocolate chips in them (that’s just the way I like them.) Amy asked why those cookies looked different. I explained it to her and gave her some. She loved them as much as I did! Then, we really started talking about a way we could have fun and I could quit my job. Of course, the cookies came to mind. It truly took shape one weekend in Atlanta, while our husbands took the children to the World of Coke and Amy and I got serious about what we wanted to do. We had so much fun planning that day, and then Amy came up with the name. I LOVED it instantly! She also came up with the logo, which I also loved! It has been quite the whirl wind adventure ever since. We officially started selling in April and I don’t regret a moment of it! It is a wonderful business that started with a wonderful friendship!
Amy: When my oldest, Zachary, was in Kindergarten, he was in class with Emily (Andrea’s daughter). We realized that our neighborhoods were connected to each other and became fast friends, as did Z and Em. I remember this vividly by the way, but after one of their playdates, Andrea dropped Z off with a bag of cookies in his hand. After she drove away he turned to me and said, “Mommy, she made cookies”, and I said, “that was nice sweetie”, and he said, “No mommy, she like really makes cookies. With the flour and sugar and stuff”. It was not one of my finest mommy moments as my son was practically telling me that he no longer cared for my slice and bake. However, I was completely wowed by the delicious taste of her “homemade cookies”. In getting to know Andrea better, I learned that she made up this recipe in high school and refuses to share her secret blend of buttery goodness. More importantly, I also realized that for every social event we attended together she was always asked to make “her cookies”. Fast forward 3 years and lots of discussion (and my persuading her), Zabels was born in January 2011 in a tiny coffee shop in downtown Atlanta while our hubbies and kids were touring the Coke Museum. And yes, we still have the paper and napkins we brainstormed on. While both of our families are extremely supportive of this journey, our children are definitely most excited about this adventure for us, so we absolutely wanted them to be a part. I thought it would be cute if we could think of a way to incorporate them into our business name. ZABELS, stands for Z-(Zachary)- A (Amy & Andrea), B(Brock), E(Emily), L(Lindsay), S (Shayna).
What is your philosophy with Zabels?
Andrea: To have a great time with a great friend and produce great cookies that everyone will love as much as we do! We only make our cookies from scratch and with no preservatives.
Amy: Life is Yummy! Why not share that yumminess with the world. Our cookies are 100% made from scratch (no preservatives) with the a special blend of ingredients that make your mouth beg you for more.
What is your biggest challenge with running a business out of your house?
Andrea: Not having the business run our family life.
Amy: Gosh, for me, it is dragging my 3-year-old around with me everywhere, and/or sticking her in front of the TV for longer than I would like to (and longer than I ever did with my big kids). She is definitely the face of Zabels, as of now. Oh, and always having cookies around the house. My hubby is not a giant fan of that. Too hard to resist.
What is your favorite aspect of it?
Andrea: Spending time with Amy and baking my cookies.
Amy: The flexibility it provides. I am in awe of how working moms away from home do it all. We are also having so much fun! After 7 + years of staying at home, it is nice to turn my brain back on a bit. I was starting to wonder if it was still fully functioning.
What keeps you up at night?
Andrea: I find myself lying in bad at night worrying about my children (choosing the right friends, making sure I have them in the best school possible, allowing them to grow into responsible, trustworthy and caring young people, the usual stuff).
Amy: My 3-year-old, she has yet to fully cut the umbilical cord from us. Third child syndrome???
What are the most important values that you want to teach your children?
Andrea: God-fearing, respectful, responsible, trustworthy, loving, moral
Amy: Geez, this is a tough one. There are just so many things we all as moms try to instill in our kids. First and foremost I want my children to realize that family comes first. Nothing else in life matters if you have a happy and healthy family. Traits- honesty, integrity, motivation. I always want my children to be the very best they can be and not worry about other people (easier said than done). I am not a competitive person, so I try to teach them to just have fun with their friends. I think it is very important for them to feel good about themselves, in every situation, which is something I still struggle with. I want them to learn from my mistakes, so I tend to sound like my mom sometimes (which is not always a bad thing, but it does make me twitch a bit).
Favorite summer family time activity?
Andrea: Getting away from Charlotte as a family anywhere where we can just spend time together and have fun without distractions.
Amy: Our annual family trip to Litchfield Beach. We just LOVE it there. We stay in the same condo, the same week every summer and my kids already have such great memories of it. In general, my favorite part of the summer is being able to relax and chill out with my babies. The school year is just SO hectic that it is nice to just spend time together.
Favorite GNO spot?
Andrea: It’s a three way tie – Cantina for great aps, The Cheesecake Factory for a great drink, and the movies for a great escape.
Amy: 10 years ago or now?! I would have to say Cantina 1511 with my fav girls. A margarita does a mommy good.
Favorite date-night spot?
Andrea: The Epi-Center movie theater to watch a movie while eating great food!
Amy: My hubby would say the mall because sometimes I do like to wander around kid free on a Sat night. So much energy. I would say sushi and a movie. I am lame, its ok.
Best book you’ve read lately?
Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
Andrea: 13 Going on 30 – I love 80’s music!!
Amy: I love Reese Whiterspoon, so anything with her… and Natalie Portman too. But all time has to be The Wizard of Oz.
Funniest thing your kids have ever said to you?
Andrea: When my son was 2 years old, I was shopping with him and my mother-in-law. We smelt something suspicious and I asked my son if he had gone potty. He took his hand a reached around the outside of his shorts and diaper and felt and said, “Yea, mom. It’s in there!” It was loud enough for the entire store to hear him. I was so embarrassed, my son thought it was soo funny! My mother-in-law still jokes with him about it to this day.
Amy: Any of my friends can attest to you that my 3-year-old says the funniest things on a regular basis. So hard to remember them all. I guess the most recent was at the beach last week when we were all playing cards (us and the family we traveled with), she walked up to us and asked us what we were doing and I told her we were playing hearts. She then climbed up onto one of the bar stools grabbed a chip out of the bowl and said, “well I’m playing eating.” All of my kids have a great sense of humor and say silly things, but she is definitely the comedian of the bunch.
Best kids birthday party you’ve attended/hosted?
Andrea: My son wanted a dance party for his 10th birthday party. We told him this would be his last until 16. We rented the clubhouse in our neighborhood and I reserved a GREAT DJ who played great music and played some GREAT games with the kids. He had disco lights and hula hoops, too. Everyone said they had a fun time.
Amy: Well, I have to say I have thrown some big soirees in my time. To be fair, I am going to do a boy and a girl one. The best party I threw for Z was at the Panthers Stadium for his 6th birthday. We got to tour the entire place, including the stinky locker room, press boxes, the field, etc. Sir Purr also made a special guest appearance and shared cake with us! The kids got to dress up in football jerseys, helmet and all and throw passes back and forth to one another. I ordered an amazing cake (I am a self proclaimed cake snob) from Edible Art. It was a giant sheet cake made to look like a football field. Everyone had a great time, especially the Dads!! Ok, as we all know, GIRLS RULE, so not to show up her brother, but for Shayna’s 6th birthday last month, we took her closest friends down to the American Girl Store in Atlanta. Indulgent? Yes. But my philosophy is that you only live once and I truly believe we should make the most of every day and every “special moment” in our lives. I am still not 100% convinced whether I did it for Shay or for myself, so we will just say we both had an amazing time. Walking in that store is like girly sensory overload, but it is a magical place of pink fluffy happiness!! Girls of all ages running around with giant smiles and belly giggles. There is really nothing like it. It warms the soul. For Shay, we decided to pick out her “just like me doll” first, before our luncheon, so she could have her doll sitting next to her at the table. How overwhelming it was for her to pick out the very perfect doll. Once all our friends arrived (btw, I have the best friends ever, who traveled to Atlanta to be with Shay for her bday), we sat down for the luncheon. Of course Shay got a birthday crown, but so did all of the girls’ dolls. The waitress then brought over teeny tiny plastic cups and pitchers of water (yes, real water) for the girls to serve their dolls. Ok, my Cabbage Patch Kids never got such treatment! These AG girls have it made!! The girls then got to choose an appetizer and an entrée! We love the soft pretzel bites and the chx fingers and mac and cheese. Each meal came with a fruit skewer (heart strawberries and cantaloupe stars). Every single detail was amazing. Finally came the moment we were waiting for. A giant, beautifully pink and white birthday cake made its way through the restaurant to Shayna’s spot. The look on her face was priceless! It is so awe inspiring to watch a little girl (or any child) be sung happy birthday to. I remember tearing up and getting goose bumps because I know this was Shayna’s moment. She was so happy to be with her friends and family celebrating her special day. Everything was just perfect. Like a moment in time. The presentation of the slices of cake and ice cream to each girl was super impressive. From the moment we walked into the store, until the second Shayna passed out in the car on the ride home, she was beaming from ear to ear. And that is what life is all about. Picture perfect days, and memories made to last forever.
Minivan or SUV?
Andrea: I drive a minivan and would love to give it up for a SUV! I am tired of the bulkiness and the sliding doors, but I do still need the room.
Amy: OK, so I swore that I would never drive an “MV”, which is what I called it the first few years of having one, but I live for it! I love the doors opening themselves so my kids can just hop on in, I love the space for road trips and large shopping trips. My hubby will say the one downfall is that I tend to forget how big my van is, which is obvious by the dents and scratches. Oops, can’t win ‘em all, can we?
Finish this sentence: “I could not live without my…”
Andrea: …family. They are my everything!
Amy: …my cell phone. Ugh, did I just admit that?! Yes, I like to, have to, need to be connected at all times. I also couldn’t live without my husband or my mom. They are both huge supporters of my every move. Coming from a broken home, I’ve always considered my mom to be my best friend, and still do. I strive each day to be as great of a mother, role model and influence on my children as she has been for me. Since the day we met, my husband has been my rock. We were best friends (roommates) first, and he is my soul mate. I don’t know what I would do without him. He knows me better than anyone in the entire world, and loves me anyway. I also couldn’t live without my best friends. I have a few gals in Florida who mean the world to me, and a few in Charlotte too. Great friends are really hard to find and I am thankful for mine. Lastly, I could not live without my babies. I must have done something right in my life because God blessed me with three amazing children.