with Robyn Frank
by Aileen Kyoko Haugh
Robyn Frank has many titles - baker, actress, entrepreneur, holiday-enthusiast and a Regular. The founder of Thumbs Cookies swings by the 11th street café daily to order a single Americano and grace the baristas and other Regulars with her down to earth presence. On the day of our interview, Robyn and I walked over to her apartment after grabbing coffee. Surrounded by dozens of cookies, sipping her Americano, Robyn curled up on her sun-lit couch and regaled me with her fascinating story about tradition, family, cookies, community and how Café Regular played a pivotal role in the creation of Thumbs Cookies.
Flashback nine years ago. Robyn moves to NYC with big dreams, and every intention not to outlive her welcome. She was here to attend theatre school. Robyn quickly connected with the city and made Park Slope, Brooklyn her home. We all know how New York stories can go - an innocent moves to the city only to find their dreams crushed by the unforgiving city. We try to deny it, but the stories of those who didn’t make it haunt us. While Robyn was working hard to secure acting roles, she felt the struggle and pressure taking its toll. And so, Robyn turned to baking.
Growing up, she would spend precious mornings with her mom in the kitchen baking cookies. Her mom, Barb would use her thumb to make perfect mini cookies. Many women in my family were bakers and cooks. I realized that was when I was the happiest – when I was in the kitchen with these women. You’re not just baking. You’re talking, gabbing and creating memories. You end up talking about life – it’s about the experience, Robyn explained to me. These pure memories guided Robyn's baking as she worked to find her place in the city.
Robyn has been visiting Café Regular, her favorite café for many years. She found that the community that was drawn to the café was always interesting and dynamic. Robyn met a woman named Nora, an experienced art director, at Café Regular, who without knowing Robyn very well decided to throw her lot in with Robyn and help develop her brand. Voila! Thumbs Cookies was born. The packaging on her cookies pays tribute to the women in her family who inspired her. The business venture is all about community. It really takes a village.” Robyn cites another friend who allowed her to start baking in the kitchen of an East Village Restaurant. After the kitchen closed, she would work from 11 PM–3 AM. The cocktail servers volunteered to taste test the cookies. Nowadays, Barb bakes the cookies out of Minnesota, making this into a beautiful mother – daughter business. When asked about Café Regular, Robyn’s whole face lit up. Going to Regular (as she calls it) is probably my favorite part of the day. I love talking to the people behind the counter. They are part of my daily ritual and they have become my friends. Going to the café, you feel like you are part of something. There are a couple of people that I met at the café that are now a huge part of my life. Robyn went on to explain the Brooklyn mentality. To her, Brooklyn is a place where people really care – about community, what they eat, who they are connecting with and their politics. She identifies Brooklyn as the place where she really found herself. As we are hitting the holiday season, I ask Robyn for her take on it all. I LOVE the holidays! I am a huge fan of Hanukkah, Christmas and Thanksgiving! There’s something about the holidays – having a cookie business I really get to be in the middle of it. I love that, at the end of the year, we all go home to the people who matter the most. When you go home and carry on traditions with your family and friends, you remember where you come from. If you can be reminded who you are, I think its really important to do that. And the holidays do that!
Words of Wisdom from our Regular, Robyn Frank. To all our dear Regulars, we wish you a happy and beautiful holiday season! We cannot wait to see what 2014 brings but no matter what, we are always here for you, near and dear.