The Sweet Jas
New grad's cookie
business takes off
during its first year.
JACKIE HEADAPOHL I MANAGING EDITOR
n winter break from Michigan
State University, Max Surnow
of West Bloomfield always
tried to do something
positive with the time off. When he was a
junior, he got his pilot's license. Last year,
as a senior, he launched a new business,
Birmingham-based Cooper Street
Cookies, with his mother, Elaine.
"My grandma had an awesome recipe
for cinnamon chocolate chip cookies that
everyone always asked about," Surnow
said. "My mother and I had been talking
about opening a cookie business to sell
them since I was in high school."
Armed with the one recipe and a rental
space at a kosher commercial kitchen
in Pontiac, Surnow began to get "all my
ducks in a row," he said. Those "ducks"
included getting a license from the
Department of Agriculture, incorporating
as an LLC, building a website and
arranging to get the cookies into stores.
"I never thought I would do it full
time," Surnow, now 22, said. "I was still
attending MSU, looking for a job and
coming home to bake with my mom on
Surnow ended up with a finance
degree from MSU last spring, but he's
stopped looking for a job. "I got a taste
of being an entrepreneur," he said.
Surnow first got Cooper Street Cookies
into Market Square, where they "flew
off the shelves." Then came a few more
stores to stock the gourmet cookies in
One year later, and I am still pleasantly
surprised at what Metro Detroit has to
offer. I quickly realized that it is not the
same place it was when I left 10 years
ago. The Metro area has developed
remarkably in the past decade, and we
haven't had the time to explore as much as
we have desired since moving here.
Having spent a lot of my time during
high school in BBYO, it has been important
for me to re-connect with my Jewish
identity. Soon after moving to Detroit, my
wife and I became involved in the Young
Adult Division of the Jewish Federation,
sitting on various committees, and I now
their bakery sections.
"I dedicated the summer to working
full-steam on the cookie business," he
said. "I hired some people to bake and
branched out to four flavors."
His main goal was to get into Whole
Foods. However, when Whole Foods
looked at the cookies' ingredients, they
said no because not all the ingredients
were natural, a requirement to sell in
"I met with chemists and re-
engineered the recipes," Surnow said.
"We changed to all-natural ingredients
and the cookies tasted even better."
For those counting calories, the news
was good, too. Only 100 calories per
three delicious cookies, and they're
lactose-free and nut-free for those with
allergies. Next month, they'll begin
selling gluten-free cookies as well.
By mid-July, Cooper Street Cookies
were in four Whole Food stores in
Michigan. Currently, the cookies are
found in nearly 70 gourmet markets as
well as Macy's department stores, where
their Cookie Towers, retailing for about
$31, are selling briskly as the holiday
shopping season gets under way. Special
requests for Cookie Towers can also be
made online at the company's website,
Surnow has a hand in all aspects of
the business. "I've got a million jobs," he
said. He also gets help from his family.
Cooper Street Cookies is truly a family
Phil and Jamie Rubin at the ORT Rub A Dub on
Aug. 25 at the Franklin Hills Country Club
Above: Elaine and Max Surnow
Left: Cookie tower from Cooper Street Cookies
maa nuts w
affair. His brother, Sam, an accountant
working in Manhattan, handles the
books; his father, Jeff, acts as a general
"business guru" helping to make big
decisions; his sister, Lisa, a student at
the University of Michigan, helps with
product demonstrations and customer
serve as a board member. I have also
recently become involved in the ADL
and am eager to learn more about the
organization. My wife and I have really
enjoyed immersing ourselves in the
It has been the strong sense of
community that has truly made me feel
back at home this past year. While I have
had inspirational experiences across the
country, no place has instilled the same
sense of community as has Metro Detroit.
My wife and I felt welcomed from the
moment we stepped off the plane and
have enjoyed making new friends and
reacquainting with old friends.
service; and his mother Elaine, who is
the "face of the company," concentrates
on sales and customer service.
"I couldn't ask for a better experience
than working with my son," Elaine
Surnow, a former artist, said. "He's
bright and kind. I raised him. And now,
being his mom, I'm learning from him.
I'm so thankful."
Both Max and Elaine are proud that
the cookies are made right here in
Michigan. Originally, they considered
launching the business from New York or
Chicago. "We made it work right here,"
Coming up on the company's one-year
anniversary, Max said he isn't thinking
about anything else but expanding the
business. "I'm having fun," he said.
I'm now 32, and I have visited
Downtown Detroit more times this past
year than I can remember growing up
because of all the amazing changes that
have transpired since I have been away.
With the community's spirit and
motivation, I feel that Detroit is on it way
to becoming once again the cultural and
iconic symbol that it once was decades ago.
I feel proud to be a part of this movement,
to say that I am from Detroit and to be
And now that I am home, I no longer
have to travel far to get a good corned beef
sandwich, Greek salad or a Coney! I l
December 8 2011