photocredit: Cookies etc Facebook


When the global pandemic hit the United States with a vengeance in the Spring of 2020, it caught many people off guard.  The fear of the unknown weighed heavily on everyone.  The constant worry spread throughout as people wondered what would come next and how they would pay their bills.

Grief became an everyday experience as we grieved the loss of activities, of school, of social gatherings.

Of normalcy.

Taking the biggest hit as the World came to a screeching halt, was the small business sector.  The little guy, grinding day in and day out to make ends meet.  Without the world-wide online presence and mega resources of the big-box, national chain stores, they rely on local sales.  Face-to-face interactions and building relationships to keep their business alive.  And so, when they were told to batten up the hatches and close, it was devasting.

While many initiatives were set forth on both the state and national level, it took some creative thinking for many businesses to stay afloat.  Like removing water from a sinking vessel out on the water, it was one bucket at a time, one obstacle at a time.

Adapt.  Adjust.  Acclimate.

Gone were the ideas of “this is how we do things.”  It was time to think out of the box and do whatever necessary to ensure businesses were around when this (hopefully) all blows over.

In Clear Lake, one business sprang into action immediately.  There was no contingency plan for something like this.  They knew creating new policies and procedures on the fly was not only necessary, but vital for their survival.

“We’ve been reminded we are in business to create a quality product made from our family recipes,” said Mary Jo Banwart, owner of Cookies etc. in downtown Clear Lake.  “The pandemic provided the push we needed to evaluate our business to meet this challenge head on.”

Thankfully, it was the fortunate coincidence of being in a lake town that helped them.  Clear Lake was the perfect “staycation” destination in the Midwest for those who weren’t comfortable travelling on extensive vacations.

Mary Jo and her team at Cookies etc used that to their advantage.  They jumped into high gear at their store, creating new products and promotions to capitalize on the surge of vacation residents throughout the summer months.  They upgraded their website immediately, knowing it would be their lifeline to the outside world.  Shipping is now available nationwide, and orders can easily be placed online for delivery and pick-up.  They hosted a drive-thru sundae event with all proceeds going to the Clear Lake/Ventura food bank.  When cookies are ordered for a healthcare worker, they match with an extra half-dozen individually wrapped.  They created May baskets, special Mother/Father’s Day gifts, and began making ‘extreme malts.’

The biggest adjustment was the addition of the Cookie ATM.  This innovative, creative idea was pushed into high gear and installed in the Clear Lake location mid-summer.  The concept is simple, and the unit is utilized like any other ATM.  Except this one is refrigerated and filled with delicious sugary treats!

It wasn’t just the new business ideas and promotions that came to fruition when the pandemic hit, they also adjusted accordingly to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.


Since the spring, they have not let any customers inside their store.  While that may be an easy concept in the months where we have favorable weather, the upcoming winter posed to be a challenge.  And so, they recently built an outdoor foyer area with heaters.  The staff always wears a mask/face shield, and they have enhanced their sanitation practices.

A strict quarantine policy is also in place, ensuring they keep contact with others minimal and safe.

While not all these new practices and adjustments are meant to increase the bottom line, in a way, they all work together to keep the boat afloat amidst the pandemic.  With the ever-changing atmosphere, Cookies etc has rolled with the punches, doing whatever they need to do in order to keep their doors open while maintaining safety.

To enjoy their deliciously wonderful, sweet treats, please visit their website

Cookies can be purchased online or by calling the store.  They are available to ship, deliver and pickup curbside for your enjoyment!