Ten years ago, Amy Thompson would have never imagined that a sugar cookie recipe could change her life. She had recently relocated to Rifle from the only place she’d ever lived, a small town in rural northern Utah. Thompson packed up and left behind everyone she knew, including her five siblings, her father and in-laws, and several lifelong friends.
“To be honest I was struggling here in Colorado,” Thompson reveals. “We moved here for my husband’s work, and our girls were still little at that time. It was hard. I was really missing my family and didn’t know anyone here. One day I was sitting in my car in the grocery store parking lot and couldn’t muster the energy to even go in; that’s when I thought, something has to change.”
Thompson decided that she needed to develop a new passion to help her through the transition. She enjoyed calligraphy and had done woodworking for many years, but was burned out on those pursuits.
“I needed something new,” she says. “So I tried out a cookie-making class back in Salt Lake City. And that was it—pretty soon I was feeling inspired again.”
Drawing upon those calligraphy and woodworking skills, Thompson began baking and decorating cookies at home in Rifle. Her kitchen became a well of creativity from which she could draw a renewed sense of purpose. And when she started selling her intricately iced creations, even more doors began opening.
“I never thought that the cookies would become a way for me to get more involved in the community,” she says. “It was a way for me to meet people and make new connections in Rifle and the other towns here.”
Thompson officially launched Amy J’s Cookie Designs five years ago, in the fall of 2016. Since then she has amassed a lengthy list of clients from across the Roaring Fork Valley, including well-known entities like Alpine Bank, Holy Cross Energy, Symphony in the Valley, Rifle Housing Authority, the Aspen High School hockey team, Basalt High School, and numerous small shops around the region. She also does bespoke creations for individual customers and their birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, holiday gatherings, and other special occasions.
“I average about 200 cookies a week,” reports Thompson, who operates her business from home under Colorado’s Cottage Foods Act. “But when I’m really busy it can be upwards of 1,000.”
Early-morning and late-night cookie sessions are the norm for the baker, who coaches cheerleading at Rifle High School during the day. She starts with a classic sugar cookie base, shaped by one of her custom-made cookie cutters (she owns about 400!). After the cookies are baked, Thompson lets them cool before adding finely piped royal icing and other gourmet finishes like edible paint and glitter.
“The biggest thing that the cookies need is patience. That might be the main ingredient,” she jokes. “From start to finish, just one single cookie takes about an hour to make. After baking you have a lot of wait time while each layer of icing dries.”
Thompson’s success has come about the old-fashioned way: by word of mouth. She doesn’t have a website, and doesn’t do social media other than Instagram. She takes orders via direct message there, and writes each one down by hand in a planner that she carries everywhere. At least two weeks’ notice is appreciated, but she tries to accommodate last-minute orders when possible.
“I’ve never advertised my cookies, ever,” Thompson says. “And I still keep getting more and more busy each year. I’m not afraid of growing—I’ve just adjusted as the business has evolved in the past few years.”
It’s easy to see why locals have fallen for the cookies. Thompson’s attention to detail and seemingly endless creativity—not to mention her affordable prices—have garnered the artisan quite a devoted following.
“I can do pretty much anything anybody wants,” she says, without the faintest hint of arrogance. Thompson exudes a warmth that’s not unlike the friendly sweetness of a sugar cookie itself. More than tasty goods and natural talent, perhaps it is her kindness that keeps customers coming back—the good stuff is baked right in.