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The Cookie Lady goes to market


Boring vendor returns for 16th year at Gresham Farmers Market

Heaven Scent Baked Goods may be all about its trademark cookies and pastries, but for owner Kelly Shewbert, the business should really be called Heaven Sent.

“I wanted something with ‘heaven” in the name and we went back and forth,” said Shewbert. “I believe the Lord has blessed me by making this work, but I really believe it’s because this business is straight from the Lord.”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Kelly Shewbert, shown here with some of her baked goods, will be selling cookies at the Gresham Farmers Market again this year.

Heaven Scent Baked Goods are well known among folks who regularly frequent the likes of Café Delirium in Gresham and Mountain Mocha in Sandy. Shewbert’s dream bars, banana bread and monster cookies have lined the pastry counters in nearly a dozen coffee houses for years, tempting and converting even the most sugar-phobic customers.

But Shewbert really made a name for herself, and her baked goods, as a vendor at the Gresham Farmers Market. Every Saturday for the last 16 years, the “Cookie Lady” has enticed shoppers with enough sweet treats to induce a sugar coma. Heaven Scent began as a way to earn a few bucks, while staying home to raise her children, but evolved into a full-fledged business that has supported Shewbert and her daughters for more than 18 years.

A Boring native, Shewbert, 50, grew up in the home where she now runs her business. She attended Barlow High School, married and had three daughters, Brittany, Amber and Jessica. Her plan, she said, was to raise her children as a stay-at-home mom.

But seven years after saying “I do,” and four days after giving birth to Jessica, Shewbert found herself a single parent.

“I had nothing,” Shewbert said. “I had no idea what to do. I’d always enjoyed baking, but didn’t know if I could support me and my girls baking cookies.”

At the same time, Shewbert’s parents, Hartley and Cynthia Hubbard, were in the process of moving to a new home in Sandy. They offered Shewbert’s childhood home to her and her young daughters.

The Hubbards were also on the verge of opening an upscale coffee shop in Gresham and suggested Shewbert supply their business with pastries as a means to support herself.

“It seemed perfect,” Shewbert said. “I was going to be able to do their baking and stay home with my babies. My parents helped me get what I needed and helped me get my kitchen certified with the Department of Agriculture so I could do this.”

For three years, Shewbert supplied Espresso Rendezvous in the Oregon Trail Shopping Center with fresh baked scones, sweet breads and coffee cake. After anchor stores in the shopping center closed in the early 1980s, business in the area declined and the Hubbards closed the coffee shop as well.

Then, on a whim, Shewbert heeded a tip from her mother. She baked some cookies and packed up her girls to peddle her wares at the Farmers Market.

“I was cautious, wondering if my stuff would work,” she said. “I had no idea if they would sell, but I sold out every week. It was a lot of fun. The girls would bring their blankets and toys and build a fort under my table. I still have customers who remember the girls when they were babies.”

Shewbert estimates she spends about 60 hours each week baking and wrapping her wares for market. Heaven Scent’s menu features a staggering assortment of baked goods — 14 varieties of cookies, 10 different bar cookies, 10 breads, three yeast breads, six kinds of fudge, two different coffee cakes and six varieties of scones. Shewbert figures she trucks approximately 35 dozen cookies alone to market each Saturday.

“By Friday night around here, the kitchen is packed,” she said laughing. “There are trays everywhere.”

Shewbert names her dream bar as the hot seller among the bar cookies for its rich layers of chocolate, toffee, walnuts, granola and condensed milk.

Among the breads, banana sells the best, Shewbert said, citing butter as the reason for its dense, moist flavor.

Shewbert routinely experiments with new recipes between market seasons in an effort to expand her offerings and grow the business. She refers to her daughters, neighbors and parents as “guinea pigs” in the taste testing process, with the burnt or undercooked efforts at something new. Her tried and true recipes, however, come from a variety of sources.

“Some are from cookbooks, some are handed down from my grandmother, my mom or friends,” Shewbert said. “The dream bar was something somebody brought to Bible study once.”

No one has been more surprised by Heaven Scent Baked Goods’ success than Shewbert. She calls herself “blessed” to have discovered a dependable way to support herself, and her customers, on such a simple idea for a cottage industry.

“It’s been quite a ride,” Shewbert said. “I mean, as a single mom, making a living making cookies? It makes no sense! But I encourage people to do something like this because there aren’t a lot of options for women to work at home. We hear a lot that working at home isn’t doable, but it is.”