Popular vegan cookie company opens its second shop in San Diego

Maya Madsen, the founder of Maya’s Cookies, never planned on opening a brick-and-mortar storefront for her gourmet, vegan cookies. She started out at the Little Italy farmer’s market in 2015 and then put her focus into selling them online.

But that changed in 2020.

Madsen’s business blew up in popularity that year as people — eager to support Black-owned businesses like hers as the Black Lives Matter movement grew — flooded her wholesale baking facility in Grantville with orders. With sales growing 10,000 percent, she converted the lobby at the bakery into a tiny storefront — her first brick-and-mortar.

Now she’s expanding once again. Earlier this month, she opened her second location in San Marcos alongside a spate of other local businesses in the North City development, which is becoming a downtown hub near Cal State San Marcos and the 78 freeway. Now, San Diegans can not only find her gourmet treats online but they can roll up to the larger shop at 250 N. City Drive to get fresh baked cookies.

“I didn’t think that I would ever have a brick-and-mortar because I didn’t think that that was something that I could afford or support,” said the 52-year-old entrepreneur.

Maya Madsen, owner of Maya's Cookies poses at the grand opening of her newest storefront in San Marcos.

Maya Madsen, owner of Maya’s Cookies poses at the grand opening of her newest storefront in San Marcos.

(Courtesy of Maya’s Cookies)

After opening that first tiny storefront in 2020, she realized she was onto something.

“I love interacting and meeting the customers and having them come here and get the cookies fresh out of the oven,” she said. “So that’s when I realized that brick-and-mortar might be something that Maya’s Cookies could grow into.”

It also made sense because her business showed steady growth with sales roughly increasing 20 percent each year since.

Maya’s Cookies are vegan — meaning no eggs, dairy or animal products for ingredients — but they do not lack creativity or pizazz. The cookies come in classic flavors like chocolate chip as well as quirky twists like “Drunken Grandma” made with brown sugar oatmeal and rum-soaked raisins.

People can order a single flavor of six cookies starting at $26 or a variety box with a curated assortment of cookies that ranges in price from $28 to $57 — the latter is for a dozen of “Maya’s Signature Collection.”

Pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies are stacked at Maya's Cookies, a gourmet vegan cookie company.

Maya’s Cookies, a local gourmet vegan cookie company, bakes up seasonal and special flavors like pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies.

(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“I’m happy that people give our cookies to cheer someone up and that makes me happy that I’m responsible for someone’s joy,” she said, as most of their e-commerce sales are gifts for everything from birthdays to breakups and condolences.

While Madsen said she is open to expanding her storefronts beyond San Diego, she noted that growing a small business costs money so it’s not a simple endeavor. She wants to be deliberate about growth and not expand too fast — the local business already ships its cookies nationwide and has appeared on the Home Shopping Network twice.

Madsen is very intentional about her business decisions and helping others along the way, such as Black, female and LGBTQ entrepreneurs. One example is the refrigerator at her new shop, which features teas from Brooklyn Best, a Black-owned business out of New York, and Just Water, artist and rapper Jaden Smith’s brand.

Madsen said she also strategically placed her new North County location near the trolley station so it would be accessible to San Diegans and her 22 employees.

While the company has been operating for seven years, Madsen still considers her business relatively new and says she is “still refining and fine-tuning” to make her products better. As for its growing footprint in San Diego, Madsen points to the Grantville location — that wasn’t originally meant to be a store — as the starting line.

I like to joke and say that’s our eighth-grade location,” Madsen said. “San Marcos, I’m considering more of my freshman location and this is where I’m going to learn a lot about operating a true brick-and-mortar space. So I’m excited about that.”

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