If you sniffed the air in the Raleigh area one weekend in early December, you probably got a whiff of the Greenscape, Inc. staff, baking up a storm.
Busy in their home kitchens, they mixed, rolled, baked, iced and sprinkled holiday cookies. Then, on Monday, client relations managers cheerfully delivered them — all 3,500 cookies — on sweet-smelling trays to 80 clients in a 50-mile radius, from Chapel Hill to Fuquay.
“It's a total labor of love," says Casey Reagan, Greenscape, Inc. marketing director and organizer of the cookie extravaganza.
The tradition dates back for years.
“We knew we wanted to do something for our clients at the holidays that felt heartfelt and homemade,” Reagan says. “ Everybody chipped in and baked cookies.”
They were a hit. So the Greenscape cookie bakers kept baking.
While a professional baker — the wife of a Greenscape employee — baked 1,000 cookies to get the ball rolling, about a dozen staff members contributed the rest.
Reagan sent out an email: who wants to bake cookies?
All the client relations managers did. So did both branch managers, an irrigation technician, the business development manager, the vice president of operations, an HR assistant and a bookkeeper.
Greenscape reimbursed them for the ingredients, but the measuring, sifting, stirring, rolling, cutting, baking and icing was all up to them.
Reagan baked red velvet crinkle cookies with her 3-year-old son, Ezra. The baking session was messy, fun, and a great lesson in kindness and sharing, she says.
“He's still really young, but he understood,” Reagan says. “I said, ‘We're making these for Mama's work to give to people.' We did make a few extra, of course, so he could taste test, ha. By the end, he had powdered sugar all over him.” She snapped a photo, to remember the day.
All over town, the same scene was unfolding, over flour-strewn counters and toasty ovens.
“Our HR assistant baked cookies with her three kids,” Reagan says. “They made a whole weekend of it. A client relations manager baked with his niece. It becomes a real family activity. Baking cookies is often a holiday family tradition, so why not do it for others?”
Each baker contributed between 100 and 200 holiday cookies, or more, Reagan says. Brownie mounds, spritz cookies, iced sugar cookies, chocolate chip, oatmeal, chocolate crinkle.
Ada Pinon and her three kids baked hundreds of peanut butter cookies, snickerdoodles, sugar cookies tinted red and green, rice krispy treats and chocolate peppermint bark cookies.
“My girls asked, ‘Why are we baking so many cookies?’” Pinon says. “I said, ‘Appreciation. If not for our clients, Mama wouldn’t have a job. And if it weren’t for this kind of family bonding we have at Greenscape, I wouldn’t love my job so much.’”
How much nibbling happened along the way?
“Way too much,” laughs Pinon, an HR assistant. “It was lots of fun. It kicked off the holiday spirit in our home. After we were done baking, we put up our tree and decorated our house with lights.”
Pinon’s kids — 5-year-old Jovanni, 12-year-old Isabell and 14-year-old Carmela — helped from beginning to end, from planning what types of treats to make to sliding the warm cookies off the sheets. Well, almost to the end. Pinon got stuck with the kitchen clean-up.
After the weekend of baking, everyone brought their cookies in at 8 a.m. Monday, spreading them out in a sugary display on tables in the conference room.
“Everybody walks around the room and loads up their trays to make sure each client gets some of each kind of cookie,” Reagan says. “I think gathering that many cookies in one room can’t help but bring some holiday cheer to our team too. Everyone seems to enjoy the time together.”
Then the client relations managers head out to deliver the goodies.
Misty Gil has been delivering the cookies each year since 2014, but this is the first year she’s made some of the treats. Gil owns a Christmas tree farm, and the weekend that her co-workers baked cookies each year, “I was going full tilt,” she says. This year she squeezed it in, inviting her sister-in-law to help.
“When I showed up with the cookies, my clients would always ask, ‘Hey, did you make any of these?’ and I’d have to say no,” Gil says. “This year I could say, ‘Yes, I did.’”
They spent eight hours making 300 marshmallow, peanut and pretzel creations covered in chocolate.
“Then we drizzled them with caramel, butterscotch or white chocolate, to make them look fancy,” Gil says. “The kitchen smelled unbelievable.”
But her favorite part is delivering them.
“I love the looks on clients’ faces when I show up and say, ‘Here are some homemade cookies from Greenscape,’” she says. “Anybody can send clients a tin of peanuts or hire someone to bake cookies. People know we made these, and that makes it extra special.”
“Our clients really seem to love it,” Reagan says. “Now that we do it every year, they look forward to it. They ask their client relations managers, ‘Hey, are y'all doing cookies again?’”
Then, the thank-you notes start rolling in.
Like this one from DeVintage HOA:
“After two long days of travel, I came home last night to a wonderful tray of homemade cookies! We can't thank you enough for thinking of us, but especially with a gift you guys made yourselves. That makes it VERY special.
I want to thank all of you at Greenscape for the services you provide, but more importantly, the personal touch you bring to the business. It's people that make a company, and all of you exceed at the people side.”
Or this one from Cotton, Inc.:
“Thank you so much for being so generous to us. As usual, the cookies are so delicious and plentiful! We do indeed appreciate everything you and Greenscape does for us and wish everyone a happy holiday season!”
It happens every year, “But it's always a little amazing to me,” Reagan says. “We're asking people to bake a lot of cookies.
“It's become a cultural tradition here,” she says, “a way to demonstrate appreciation to our clients. We know how much they appreciate it.”