A couple of years ago, Charlie's Fine Food Co was busy making cookies for airlines, hotels, schools, pubs, clubs and cafes. "We thought we were diversified but COVID wiped out everything," says owner Jacky Magid. "It has been a crap year."
After a huge dip, she reinvented her business for retail and export, retaining her staff and powering on. "We are grateful," she says.
A few weeks ago, Magid's team felt the urge to help the cafes that have been such an important part of their cookie ecosystem. "This sixth lockdown has been really tough on people," she says. "We wanted to give back to those struggling mentally and financially."
They called for people to nominate their favourite cafes. Twenty beloved cafes would be gifted a $250 cookie pack.
"The response was phenomenal," says Magid. "We had people writing such lovely things about what their cafes had done and were going through."
Some cafes donated coffee to doctors and nurses, others supported refugees in the community, all brightened days with smiles and remembered coffee orders.
"It was so nice to hear how much these cafes meant to people," says Magid. Recipients included Miss Ruby in Bentleigh, Merrymen in Hampton and Cafe Rubix in Box Hill North.
It was what happened once the cookie packs were delivered that really blew the team away. "The cafes hadn't nominated themselves, they didn't even know the cookies were on offer," says Magid. "So when we explained what happened, they wanted to know what their customers had said about them. They became softer and even kinder."
And they started using their donated cookies to pay it forward. "Some cafes put a free cookie in with click-and-collect orders, one sold them and donated the profits to the Royal Children's Hospital, some gave them away to their staff."
For Magid, the initiative was proof of the power of community and connection.
"It's concentric circles – every little act of kindness goes a long way," she says. "You don't have to change the whole world yourself, but if I impact the person next to me they will impact the person next to them. Our act of kindness created more acts of kindness."
Is there something about cookies and kindness that goes together?
Our act of kindness created more acts of kindness.
"Cookies are about nostalgia and comfort," says Magid, who is particularly fond of Charlie's melting moments. "We still bake in a very traditional way. They are just a good old-fashioned treat."
Order via charliesfinefoodco.com
If you want to create your own cookies and kindness situation, Butterbing packs its lavish cookie sandwiches into insulated packages and ships them for next-day delivery. Get them for yourself or surprise a locked down pal. Favourite flavours include banoffee, musk stick, tiramisu and cookie dough.
Coffee and Butterbing cookies from Co-Ground social enterprise coffee van in Collingwood. Photo: Supplied
The Pakenham cafe has treat-filled hampers for gifting. Each one includes chai granola, crumpets, yoyo biscuits, brownies and pistachio cookies. The cafe is in the Robert Gordon pottery warehouse so they can also hook you up for sweet spring hanging planters, good for you, good for a gift.
114 Mulcahy Road, Pakenham, Victoria, 03 5941 3302, nancyeatery.com.au
Have you even lived in Melbourne if you haven't fallen face first into a Monarch kugelhopf? This Polish bakery has been making the Bundt-shaped yeast cake with chocolate or poppyseed swirl since 1934. Let's just say they've got pretty good at it and they'll gladly ship it to you or anyone you think might need cake in their lives.
103 Acland Street, St Kilda, 03 9534 2972, monarchcakes.com.au