When you think about childhood, many think of the cool feel of your skin in the rain, the flickering candles on your birthday cake and the warm bite of freshly baked cookie.
After adolescence, it’s almost impossible to recreate the joy that comes from those sorts of experiences, but one local Austin company doesn’t think so.
In 1999, two college sweethearts took their love for each other and their love for sweets and turned it into a business. Tiff and Leon Chen, owners of Tiff’s Treats, started a cookie delivery company right across the street from the University of Texas at Austin, where both went to school. Now, their reach far exceeds the 40 acres these days.
Tiff says the idea came from her then-boyfriend and now husband Leon Chen.
“I actually stood him up on a date,” she says. “So that’s where it started…. When I got home my mom told me it was rude and I should do something to apologize.”
Tiff used to bake cookies for fun, so she baked him a batch and drove them over to his dad’s house, where Leon was staying. The cookies were still warm. Then she drove home.
“By the time I got home he called me up and said ‘Hey, when we go back to school in a couple weeks, we’re gonna do this like a business. It’s gonna be just like pizza delivery but with cookies,’” Tiff says.
Leon took her apology and turned it into a business. But he says he never thought it would turn into a full-fledged business. He was just hoping to get some pocket money.
At first, the couple’s new venture didn’t take off. They waited three days before getting their first order. They started averaging a few orders a night. They were running the business without overhead from their shared apartment in Hyde Park.
“We were so excited about it, but it was very slow,” Tiff says. “Five orders a night would be plenty busy at first.”
They didn’t pay themselves for the first five to six years, but they kept going.
In 2000 they rented a back kitchen space from a restaurant on the Drag. Then in 2003 they moved to their first space off of MLK street. Since then Tiff’s Treats has expanded to Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. It’s a staple in Austin – you don’t get cookie delivery in this city unless it’s Tiff’s.
This year Tiff and Leon Chen have decided to make the leap and open a store outside of Texas.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.