Craig Pike: A Recipe For Success
In 2004, Craig Pike moved from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, to Canada’s largest and most metropolitan mecca, Toronto. Originally, Pike committed to attending George Brown theatre school in Toronto for one reason and one reason only, which was to continue his journey as an actor. For the next four years, he attended theatre school with the dream of one day tap-dancing his way to Broadway or London’s West End. However, before Pike could dance the Cha-Cha and the Can-Can at Carnegie Hall, he was honing his abilities at Niagara on The Lake, fine tuning his craft for four years. When he returned to his one-bedroom apartment in Parkdale, he had a problem. His rent and bills were due…
Flashback to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, during the mid 1980s.
At age nine, Craig was baking chocolate chip cookies in his grandmother’s kitchen. His eyes zoom in on his mom preparing the various ingredients. He takes a mental snapshot. He can see the top secret recipe being concocted. Today, more than 30 years later, he can still taste the delicious cookie dough from years gone by.
Was this the answer to his financial strife? “As an actor, I got kind of savvy and thought I’d start an Instagram account for the cookies. I posted a photo of the first batch that came out, using my iPhone, and, in my first month, I sold 200 dozen cookies just from one Instagram post and a Facebook post.”
Over the next three to four years, Pike was chronically unemployed but still auditioning for roles and acting in theatre — when opportunity knocked. Concurrently, during this time, his cookie business had experienced a modicum of success, and he decided to pursue it as a serious business. “I’d bake cookies and deliver them on my bike around the city.”
During 2014, Pike had an epiphany. “One day, I was at FreshCo in Parkdale buying butter for cookies, and Pop Tarts were on sale. I thought that might be fun to put in a cookie. So, I bought some Pop Tarts, put them in a cookie, and it worked out,” he says. “So, then I thought, ‘Well, maybe if that works, then anything would work.’ So, we started with the Mars bar and the Peanut Butter Cup and the brownie — and now, the sky’s the limit.”
In 2017, Air Canada’s official magazine, En Route, featured a slick article on Craig and his cookies. The piece was so popular that William Sonoma approached Pike to open a pop-up shop inside their Yorkdale mall location. “I showed up at Yorkdale mall, sold out within two hours, and then, they asked me to come back.” Inevitably, a relationship bloomed, and Craig had a pop-up shop in the mall for six months where the smell of his freshly baked homemade cookies brought in thousands more customers.
Pike vividly recalls the day that potentially owning his own shop became more than a dream — an Instagram follower posted an image of a rental space that would be available for rent in January of 2018. He went to preview the space, and the landlord gave him an ultimatum of 24 hours to make a decision. “At that point, I only had $6,000 in my bank account, and first and last was $5500. I gave him pretty much all the money I had, and I was standing in the middle of my little space in Parkdale where there was no floors, no plumbing, nothing. And, no money. I thought, ‘What have I done?”
Pike garnered up enough money to fix up his new investment by turning to an online funding site called GoFundMe.com. Soon after, Blog TO became aware of his funding mission. “BlogTO posted that I was doing an online fundraising campaign, and I was able to fundraise almost $10K from that. Someone who had seen that post from BlogTO called me and lent me $25K.” The blog also attracted 14 million views. Craig’s Cookies would never sell less than a thousand cookies a day after that.
A year later, Pike was approached by Nordstrom’s to open a pop-up store. This was the impetus for him to launch a shop in the gay village on Church Street. “I’m queer and wanted to give back to the community.”
In 2019, Craig began contemplating returning to the theatre. He was missing his passion, but, by March 2020, the world we knew had completely shut down. Enter COVID-19, stage left. “The pandemic put a pause on getting back into the arts, so I invested all my time and energy into growing the business.”
Pike is also very passionate about giving back to the community. He donates funds to Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, The 519 and many other fantastic charitable causes. Every July 1, Craig’s Cookies donates 100% of its sales to the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre.
As the pandemic appears to be near an end, Pike will, once again, shift some of his attention to the arts and perhaps even fund one of his passion projects, thanks to his family’s secret chocolate chip recipe for success.