Shana Taveras, founder, creative director, and chief cookie maker at Blackout Baking Co., took an unlikely path to owning a boutique bakery. The e-commerce business, focused on one-bite, distinctly American cookies, was conceptualized in London, but a series of twists and turns led Taveras to Oak Park.
If construction goes smoothly, Blackout Baking Co. is expected to open a brick-and-mortar location in the Pleasant District, 210 S. Marion St., as early as September.
A background in design and textiles led Taveras to New York and a career in the fashion industry working for Tommy Hilfiger. Thanks in part to the good example set by her parents, Taveras always had ambitions to own her own business, but knew early on starting her own fashion line wasn’t her goal.
“I loved my job, but it is a capital-intensive industry,” said Taveras. “I felt like I knew too much about industry pitfalls and that made the idea of starting my own line scary.”
Taveras’ husband opted to pursue his MBA abroad and the couple relocated to London. Taveras continued making connections in the fashion industry, but also had more time available to explore her new European home.
“London has such a great food scene that represents a mix of cultures,” said Taveras. “But I would go into bakeries and see stereotypical versions of American cookies that were not representative of America to me.”
The cookies Taveras came across were monstrously sized and usually M&M laden — they didn’t capture the truly American feeling that comes with enjoying a warm chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven. Seeing an opportunity to bring a more authentic representation of cookies from across the pond to her adopted city, Taveras set out to create the best versions of American cookies in London.
As a food lover Taveras wants to try a little bit of everything and shrinking the cookie down to one thoughtfully crafted bite was the self-taught baker’s first step in redefining American cookies. She envisioned diminutive cookies capable of causing a “blackout brought on by deliciousness” — in that moment Blackout Baking Co. was born.
Blackout Baking Co. was gaining steam in London by 2016. After developing her own recipes, Taveras brought her cookies to city markets and capitalized on catering and corporate gifting opportunities. Just as business momentum began to build, however, Brexit brought the couple back stateside. Taveras and her husband settled in Chicago. After the birth of their son the couple bought a home in River Forest, but Blackout Baking Co. was still on Taveras’ mind.
“I realized I would be sitting in a hole until I got the idea out into the world,” said Taveras. “I designed my website at the River Forest library, and we were off to the races. It turns out my background in the technical side of design made me uniquely suited to baking.”
Taveras launched her website in 2018 and worked out of a shared commercial kitchen. She participated in artisan markets, delivered locally, and shipped nationwide.
The Blackout Cookie is Taveras’ signature offering. The chocolate-on-chocolate-on-chocolate cookie is an ode to the retro Brooklyn Blackout Cake created by Ebinger’s Bakery in New York. The chocolate ganache filled chocolate cookie features milk chocolate chunks and flaked sea salt.
Blackout cookies join peanut butter, sugar, chocolate chip, shortbread and brown butter chocolate chip on the regular menu. Seasonal cookies like strawberry shortcake and orange honey bourbon cookies are added monthly to enhance menu offerings. Blackout Baking Co. uses organic eggs, Belgian chocolate and avoids artificial flavorings. The bakery also caters to customers with dietary restrictions.
Positive word of mouth sustained the business through its infancy and before long Taveras went in search of a permanent home for Blackout Baking Co. The Marion Street space is ideal according to Taveras who hopes to create a community-oriented bakery and café with a vibrant e-commerce business. In addition to serving her popular cookies, Taveras is planning to sell brownies, breads and scones.
Blackout Baking Co. will serve Irving Farm Coffee and will represent the first café in Chicago to serve coffee from the New York based roastery. Taveras is also looking forward to local collaborations with neighboring businesses including Carnivore and Anfora Wine Merchants. Taveras already has cookies available at Anfora.
“I don’t do anything halfway and I have a vision for what Blackout Baking Co. can be,” said Taveras. “Once I get my feet under me, I envision the space being an incubator for other local artisans. The space is bright and beautiful and I am excited to be in this community.”