A delivery truck stocked with Berger cookies rolled out of the Cherry Hill bakery Monday morning for the first time in more than a month. The well-known sweets are finally back in stores after Berger’s closure by the Baltimore City Health Department Jan. 31; the bakery was closed for operating without a city-issued food-service license.
The Health Department approved the bakery's license Wednesday, and the bakery started to gear up for production the next day. On Monday, workers in hairnets and aprons frosted cookies, packed the treats and sent them off.
Corey DeBaufre, whose family has been making the cookies since 1969, said the bakery would keep its regular production schedule for the time being. Even if demand spiked, he said, it would be hard to make more cookies quickly without hiring additional workers, something the facility generally only does for increased demand at Christmas.
The cookies can't be rushed, he explained, because drying time is essential.
“With baking, it's all patience,” said DeBaufre, 29, who is the son of Charles DeBaufre Jr., the bakery's sole owner, who has been hospitalized since Feb. 14.
Retailers said they weren’t experiencing a huge rush on the iconic cookie on their first day back.
“People aren’t trampling each other in the aisles to get Berger cookies,” said Keisha Golder, who works at the Giant Food on Old Court Road.
Santoni’s Market in Glyndon started making its own version of the Berger cookie, even packing them in pairs like the Berger snack pack.
“We’re going to keep making our own,” said Frank Cleveland, the store's bakery manager. But the store will be welcoming back the Berger cookie, too.
“We like to buy local and iconic,” he said, “and Berger cookies fit perfectly into that milieu.” Cleveland said he had no plans to increase or decrease his standing order.
“The rule is, if a product leaves the marketplace, the following goes away,” he said. “[Berger] may be the exception. It's got such a loyal following. It's one of the few products I think it can happen with.”
The younger DeBaufre said that 3,200 15-ounce packages were sent out Monday. About 30 of them arrived at Gourmet Again in Pikesville, where they competed for attention with bright red bags of Otterbein's cookies, another local favorite, and in-house creations like chocolate-topped cookies and rainbow cake.
Gourmet Again also didn’t change its weekly order, partly because of what owner Andy Harris, as well as personnel from other stores, described as Berger’s somewhat erratic production and delivery performance — even before the Health Department closure. The bakery’s reasons for the disruptions always varied, Harris said. “Sometimes they ran out of boxes; sometimes they were out of shrink wrap,” Harris said. “And sometimes they were out of chocolate.”
But even customers at Gourmet Again who weren't buying cookies of any kind Monday seemed pleased about Berger’s return. “They are good and they are delicious, and we're all happy to see them,” said Loretta Hirshfeld of Pikesville, who said she watches her sugar intake.
Donna McCulloch said she was glad to hear that Berger cookies are back, but she also didn't buy any. “I don't like them, but my boyfriend loves them,” she said. “He's from Baltimore. I think they're a Baltimore thing.” McCulloch, who is from New Jersey, prefers black-and-whites, a half vanilla-half chocolate cookie immortalized on the show “Seinfeld.”
Cleveland, of Santoni’s Market, compared Berger cookies to another local favorite that Baltimoreans embraced after a much longer absence. “Natty Boh was out of the market for 20 years,” he said. “[Berger cookies] might turn out to be one of those iconic things that's just indestructible.”