Change a recipe in three significant ways — and it’s yours.
Sarah Joy Hays learned this rule of thumb from fellow baker and business owner Joy Wilson. Wilson has gained national attention with her food blogging, cookbooks, classes — and even an occasional Joy the Baker magazine.
Hays flecks her signature chocolate chip cookie with sea salt and refrigerates the dough to achieve the right texture. During baking, she bangs the sheet pan down to crinkle the cookies at the edges. With her staff at CounterspaceBR, she bakes up batches daily for her own shop and delivers to Baton Rouge coffeehouses Social, Lighthouse and French Truck too. Any three zigs or zags you’d take to make this recipe your own would be veering away from many a local’s idea of sweet perfection.
The good news is that there is more of a delicious thing on the way. Hays plans a soft opening, as soon as permitting allows, for her second Counterspace location in a new development near the intersection of Jefferson Highway and Corporate Boulevard.
“Hopefully within the week,” Hays said regarding the soft opening of Couterspace Bocage. The grand opening is planned for June 17, if all goes well with permits.
Hays is smartly keeping many of the treats that have built her brand in the past five years, since her first outings at the Mid City Makers Market in early 2017. Chocolate chip cookies, sprinkle cookies, tahini whoopie pies and take-and-bake cinnamon rolls have followed her from the pop-up tent to a kiosk at White Star Market and then a brick-and-mortar in the Southdowns neighborhood, hidden behind a wall and tucked between Uncle Earl’s Bar and Cangelosi Dance Project.
But a second location presents opportunities to evolve.
“We are in a growth pattern with the bakery,” said Hays. “It’ll be great to get out from behind a wall and have some real exposure in a trafficked area.”
While the Southdowns location remains in operation, the Counterspace Bocage will allow Hays to expand into kitchen retail, harkening back to her days in Washington D.C., when she split time between nonprofits and a kitchenware shop called Hill’s Kitchen.
At Counterspace Bocage, she’ll carry ten or fifteen of her favorite cookbooks, to start, prizing a diversity of cultural and culinary backgrounds in the authors.
“We’ll have The Book on Pie by Erin McDowell. Everything she touches is gold. We love her,” said Hays. “If anyone ever asks, ‘My kid likes to bake. What do I give them?’ It’s One Hundred Cookies by Sarah Kiefer. It’s the best cookie cookbook.”
Customers can also find The Vintage Baker by Jessie Sheehan, New World Sourdough by New Orleans-based Bryan Ford and Life Is What You Bake It by Baton Rouge native and Great American Baking Show winner Vallery Lomas.
Hays plans to stock kitchen tools to pair with the cookbooks — “the one-off things you may not have, so you can execute the recipes,” she said.
Other wares include table linens, sifters, kitchen scales and sheet pans. A prominent counter and dry case will contain all the sweet treats, with plenty of room for gift wrapping. In the months ahead, Hays hopes to add grab-and-go fridges and freezers; she also plans to serve lunches with the ciabattas and focaccias her team has perfected.
One wall receives too much direct sunlight to stock products, so Hays enlisted muralist Hannah Gumbo to add some color in the form of a happy cat and an enormous cookie, one bite subtracted.
Construction has moved swiftly.
“I got the key on March 3,” she said. “I called Norisha Kirts Glover [of NRK Construction] that day and said, ‘We need to start.’”
By March 9, she was walking the site with NRK project manager Michael Johnson, to take measurements.
She waits on the final permits before she can hold a soft opening. In the meantime, she’s enjoyed sharing the space with her husband Adam and her young son Henry. Hays opened her White Star Market location on Henry’s fourth birthday, and she’s scheduled the grand opening of this location for his eighth, on June 17.
“He always has so many ideas,” said Hays. “It’s been a very hard month trying to get this open, but he is so sweet and has so much vision when I don’t. He’ll say, ‘So Mom, when we’re global, instead of CounterspaceBR, it’ll be CounterspaceLA, for Los Angeles.’”
“It’s just so sweet that he sees the work we’re doing to build this. He can see beyond that while I’m going, ‘Are we ever going to open? When is the air conditioning going to get turned on?’”
Expect to see Henry at Counterspace Bocage on a few weekends and holidays.
“He rings up customers,” said Hays. “He’ll ask, ‘Have you tried the brownies?’ He loves an upsell, and he loves the brownies.”
For more information, go to counterspacebr.com.