Shannon had the opportunity to talk with Steve Lewis, the owner and creator of Gideon’s Bakehouse. They talked about cookies, how he started his business and more.
Getting to know Gideon’s Bakehouse
Gideon’s Bakehouse is a local bakery in central Florida that specializes in almost half pound cookies and cold brew coffee. Everything takes almost a full 24 hours to prepare and is Steve’s passion.
The quality of the product is very important. Steve started working on the chocolate chip cookie recipe as a child. Gideon’s is personal to Steve and is part of his memories.
The stores have a very interesting and beautiful theme. Steve was a musician and then opened a comic shop and art gallery. This is why Gideon’s Bakehouse locations are so beautiful. Steve looks at it more like an art gallery.
The name comes from an old book from 1898 that Steve found of a little boy that wanted to be a baker. So he opened Gideon’s bakery. This is also why the locations are full of old books.
The aesthetic is Steve’s own personal favorite. When he opened the first Gideon’s Bakehouse location he did so with an $800 budget, so he decorated the bakery with things from his own home.
He opened the bakery shortly after his art gallery closed. He says he is a big fan of failure because learning from the hard lessons causes improvement. That’s what Gideon’s is all about.
The East End Market location was the first location. Shortly after the Disney Springs location opened, a Boston Globe reporter called the cookies the greatest cookies on the planet earth. It was nice to get that kind of recognition so early in the opening of this second location.
The Disney Connection
The decision to open Disney Springs was because it really embodied the escapism for Gideon’s. This took a while to convince Disney Springs to give him the space because he was relatively small at that time. However, the risk paid off for both of them!
Steve chose the location specifically because he has a special connection with the building. The location also provides the space to have a long line without blocking any other entrances.
Gideon’s and Disney are a great match because of the element of escapism, wonderful customer service, and unique food experiences. Gideon’s was about that way before opening in Disney Springs. The fit was easy.
However, it was more difficult for Steve. He would prefer to be behind the scenes but it is important to Gideon’s story that it is a small, locally-owned business.
There is more space in their Disney Springs location, so he is able to have different products. He does not serve cold brew at his original location because of another coffee shop nearby – he doesn’t want to hurt their business.
There are a couple of cookies (Coffee Cake cookie and dark coffee cake cookie) that pair especially well with the cold brew that are only served at the Disney Springs location.
Steve learned how to design the space at Disney Springs to house about 7,000 cookies per day. Selling out of cookies was part of his brand because of the space limitations that he had at the original location.
Steve is obsessed with detail and everything is designed for a reason. He wants the cookies to rest for 2 hours because he doesn’t want to sell hot cookies. All you taste is the chocolate in a hot cookie.
Steve loves the Disney animation and branding. He speaks the language of positive guest experience. He loves eating at Epcot because he’s a food person but he doesn’t enjoy being out in the sun and in crowds.
Steve is a big introvert but he loves standing out on Saturday at Disney Springs meeting people in line, but then on Sunday he will need to recharge.
Steve experiments with different flavor profiles and makes things he would like. He used to love baking chocolate chip banana bread, so the Banana Bread Chocolate chip cookie was a natural combination. He is originally from New York and the Coffee Cake cookies are to honor that part of his story.
Steve won’t put something on the menu that he doesn’t like. He doesn’t like walnuts in cookies so he candies them and puts them on top so they do not absorb the moisture of the cookie. He also isn’t a big fan of white chocolate but wants to have a few white chocolate options on the menu so he adds coffee to the white chocolate.
Some cookies take years to perfect until they are what Steve expects. He didn’t think Banana Bread Chocolate chip cookie would be a huge seller, but it ended up being a big favorite.
The Orange Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookie (The Stuart Cookie) was originally met with comments thinking that orange and chocolate wouldn’t do well together. However, this year it has been a big favorite.
The February cookie, Eternal Flame, has ancho, Cayenne, and cinnamon and Steve worried it was too much for more mainstream guests because of the heat. However, the extra hot version sold out even faster than the original.
Shannon mentioned that she doesn’t like pistachios but she loves the flavor combinations in the Pistachio Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie. Steve says that at the original location the Pistachio Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie is the second best selling.
Steve says he doesn’t have a favorite because they are all his babies. The Chocolate Chip cookie is special because they’ve been on a journey together.
Shannon asked Steve if he will ever have vegan options. He does have a vegan option and a gluten free option, but there are logistical challenges. Steve says he would rather you purchase a chocolate chip cookie from a vegan bakery.
It is very expensive and laborious to make Gideon’s cookies. Vegan products are even more expensive. He would need to charge more and he hates that option. You shouldn’t have to pay $2 more for a vegan cookie.
Social Media is important for the growth of small business and Gideon’s isn’t any different. What Steve is doing is very visual. It matters that it looks good and your friend likes it. He loves seeing the reactions on social media and reads all the comments.
He loves watching people eat the cookies – it’s very special.
He doesn’t advertise much but occasionally will do a boosted post on Instagram. The natural and authentic engagement on social media is enough for him. He wants to make sure he doesn’t make people wait hours and hours. He’s at maximum capacity and says that’s enough.
Perhaps someday he will open another location but it would have to be a very creative option. He also doesn’t have plans to ship cookies. He would need to do too much to make that an option.
Steve really wants you to get the whole Gideon’s experience. He wants you to wait in the line and speak with his team. He wants you to go inside and see the aesthetic. The team that he hires is very important and he wants to be sure it’s a good fit.
What’s the best strategy?
When there is not a virtual queue system, you just need to show up and stand in line. If there is a virtual queue in place, during busier times, you will need to sign up in person to get on the list. If they did allow for online registrations, the queue would be full before they even open.
He wants to reward your presence! On the most busy times, you should plan to do something for a few hours after you check in and come back to get your cookies. It’s best to go to Gideon’s first to find out what the wait will be.
What’s in the future for Gideon’s?
Steve will not share any new flavors, but there will also be something new to look forward to! He just finalized a new cold brew for September and he’s very excited about it. Steve is always thinking a few years ahead.
The success has been wonderful but it also feels like a rollercoaster. Steve loves everything about it, the ups and downs!
Be sure to follow Gideon’s on social media. Steve is very strategic about what he posts – it’s important that what he posts is meaningful. Be sure to turn notifications on so you don’t miss a thing.
Magic Band+ launched in July and everyone wants to know if they should buy one! You can use the same Magic Bands for multiple trips, but the batteries will go out over 2-3 years. If you are wondering if you should buy a new Magic Band, keep in mind battery life. As you get closer to it wearing out completely, some features are more difficult – on ride photos for example.
Links for this episode
- Gideon’s Bakehouse – Find out everything you want to know about Gideon’s Bakehouse
- Be sure to follow Gideon’s on Social Media!
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