Berryville shoppers may soon find themselves following their noses to Crow Street as the enticing aroma of freshly baked cookies draws them to the Town’s newest business. Chef Dan Lantonio (Aka. The Cookie Guy) will open his baking boutique at 23 Crow Street in early February offering a carefully selected menu of handcrafted baked goods that are, “Baked, Packaged and Delivered on the Same Day.”
Dan’s path to becoming The Cookie Guy is a mixture of culinary passion and entrepreneurial drive. “Growing up, my family was involved in all sorts of franchise businesses, from dry cleaners to restaurants and at one point we had four McDonald’s franchises.” That business acumen rubbed off on Dan. He attended the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City for three years and after graduating, Dan stayed in NYC to work in the catering business on Wall Street. From there he advanced to Pastry Chef at Butter Restaurant, a well known Soho eatery that caters to many celebrities and serves desserts to hundreds of customers every night. “From Butter I moved on to a restaurant that caters to just desserts called The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn.” His work in big city commercial operations provided great experience, but his desire was a smaller more personal experience. “I’m too laid back,” he said, “I don’t like big companies that much and I did my time in restaurants in New York, so I moved to Virginia to start something on my own.”
He launched his business six years ago as a personal chef with several families in the Great Falls, McLean area. As a personal chef, Dan visits his clients homes and prepares several days of meals for them. His work with his existing client base also gave him the opportunity to prepare specialty cakes and corporate gifts. “All of my clients have their own businesses and they have clients so they asked me what I could do for them for holiday gifts.” Dan started leveraging his library of recipes to develop tiered gift packages for the holidays and his business started to grow in a different direction.
Two years ago, “The Cookie Guy” was born. “Almost all of my clients now are corporate,” Dan said. He still maintains his personal chef clientele but he is pinning his hopes on The Cookie Guy. Dan said he has seen a tremendous growth in his business not only during the holidays, but year round as realtors and all manner of business people use his product as a treat for meetings. “I sell a cookie pack with three small cookies, individually wrapped in a nice bag and deliver them to realtors and insurance agents to hand out at meetings and events. They are always a big hit.”
As his business grew, his home based operation was becoming more and more cramped. Finally it reached the point that Dan needed to look for a space to open a commercial kitchen. The cost of retail space in Northern Virginia stalled Dan’s efforts until a chance encounter outside of his home sent him on a path to Berryville.
“I met the landlord of this building on the street where I live in Sterling . He was helping someone move out of their house and he saw my truck and asked me where I was located. I told him I’m home based right now. He said ‘Do you know where Berryville is?’ He told me the rent and the square footage and I thought, Wow.”
After a couple of months of thinking Dan made the move. “I had never been to Berryville. I had driven by many times, but I had never been in the town. I drove up here a couple of times to look at the space and decided to take it. I really like this little town.”
The space has presented him with an opportunity for a storefront that was never part of his plan. “I’m not counting on foot traffic, but with this great space as my commercial kitchen, it creates a great opportunity to share my products with new customers.”
His products are Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter, Coconut Macadamia, White Chocolate Cranberry and Sugar cookies. He also offers rich chocolate brownies topped with chocolate chips. These hand made treats are offered in gift boxes and baskets in various sizes and can be delivered locally, but are also packaged to maintain their freshness for overnight shipping by major carriers.
Walk in customers will also be able to buy individual cookies and brownies as well as handmade chocolate bars and coffee.