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Night Shift Cookie Co. to showcase hand-decorated creations at SLO Public Market storefront

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Alexa Smith loves Halloween. So it's no surprise that she chose October to open her new cookie shop at SLO Public Market.

The name of her company is also fitting. Night Shift stems from working graveyard hours—baking cookies from her registered cottage food kitchen in San Luis Obispo—after putting in a full day at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.

"Most nights I start anywhere from 5 to 8 p.m., and I can say there are times I've seen the sun rise around the holidays when I'm extra busy," she said.

"I'm also a huge horror fan, and one of my favorite Stephen King short story collections is called Night Shift. So the idea of the logo I wanted was a cookie that looked like the moon, [with] bats to give it a little spooky feel."

Smith, who was born and raised in SLO, has been involved in the health care industry and baking treats from home since she was a teenager. She honed both skills over the years, obtaining an online degree in health care administration from Colorado State University Global and launching Night Shift Cookie Co. in 2018.

The two skills may seem disparate, but Smith approaches them similarly. Her health care experience includes administrative functions, such as billing, coding, and revenue analysis.

BATTY FOR BAKING Alexa Smith's round-the-clock work regimen may lighten soon. She quit her day job, and even her appearance at local vendor events may phase out, depending on customer demand at her new brick-and-mortar shop in SLO. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NIGHT SHIFT COOKIE CO.
  • Photo Courtesy Of Night Shift Cookie Co.
  • BATTY FOR BAKING Alexa Smith's round-the-clock work regimen may lighten soon. She quit her day job, and even her appearance at local vendor events may phase out, depending on customer demand at her new brick-and-mortar shop in SLO.

"I'm a very procedural person—some might call it type A—and baking ... is really about specific measurements and techniques," she said. "If you stray even a little, you can ruin the whole product. I like that about baking. I think it's also why a lot of people really hate baking."

One thing's for sure: Smith's friends and co-workers are happy subjects for her baking trials.

Co-worker Sheri Burks has been ordering Smith's treats for years. "Alexa's cookies stand out because they're fresh, tasty works of art," Burks said.

From birthdays to holidays and everything in between, Smith always exceeds expectations, she said.

"Just tell her what you want—what design, caricature, flower, unicorn, etc. She can do anything," Burks continued. "As far as Alexa opening a brick-and-mortar at SLO Public Market, it's her dream. She has always wanted to have the opportunity to have a shop and bakery of her own. I believe she will be a great asset to the SLO Public Market."

The compact 115-square-foot space will showcase her repertoire of iced sugar cookies and macarons, which will continue to be baked from scratch at her home cottage food kitchen.

The reality of having her own cookie shop is still settling in, Smith said. It's been a continually evolving journey, from making "practice cookies" for co-workers, to posting creations on her social media accounts, to volunteering her services for friends' and colleagues' special occasions.

Eventually, they started offering to pay, she continued, "and that's when I realized I needed to look into how I could do this legally."

After receiving her permit and business license, she launched her business via social media and word of mouth.

SWEETHEART Alexa Smith freehand designs many of her treats. A fellow baker provided the inspiration for her heart-shaped sugar cookies, then she fine-tuned the coloring and floral placement. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NIGHT SHIFT COOKIE CO.
  • Photo Courtesy Of Night Shift Cookie Co.
  • SWEETHEART Alexa Smith freehand designs many of her treats. A fellow baker provided the inspiration for her heart-shaped sugar cookies, then she fine-tuned the coloring and floral placement.

"Every year I was seeing an increase in orders, and it was super exciting," she said. "I was doing all this while working full time [at Sierra Vista]. But I honestly haven't had a day where I think, 'Wow, this is so stressful, I need to scale back or stop.' I love what I do. Most of my frustration comes from having to turn down orders because there just isn't enough time in the day."

She found herself "daydreaming about how I could make being a 'cookier' a full-time job, which usually spiraled into stressful thoughts about health insurance, retirement, and all those fun things."

Her life changed dramatically this month when SLO Public Market reached out regarding a space they had available at its upcoming 4-acre complex at the corner of South Higuera Street and Tank Farm Road.

ETHEREAL TREATS Galaxy macarons with coconut buttercream are achieved by coloring separate batches of batter then combining them into a larger piping bag. The resulting hues make each cookie unique. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NIGHT SHIFT COOKIE CO.
  • Photo Courtesy Of Night Shift Cookie Co.
  • ETHEREAL TREATS Galaxy macarons with coconut buttercream are achieved by coloring separate batches of batter then combining them into a larger piping bag. The resulting hues make each cookie unique.

"I was ... excited, nervous, overwhelmed, basically all the emotions," Smith said. "Besides the work of getting the space open, this also meant quitting my [day] job. I took some time to think about it, and decided to jump in full time. I'm really excited to start this new journey and offer yummy treats to the people of SLO."

Smith's impending departure from Sierra Vista at the end of September has been a mixed bag of emotions. Her administrative job "probably would have put most people to sleep," she jokingly said, "but I enjoyed it. I'll mostly miss the people I worked with. But they've promised they'll visit me."

Existing clients of Smith's cottage food kitchen are also excited about her new venture.

"The brick-and-mortar store sounds amazing," said Los Osos resident Alexa Taus. "I think it'll be a great place to stop in for a quick treat."

Taus got on the Night Shift bandwagon last year when Smith created Star Wars baby-themed cookies for her baby shower.

"They were amazing," she said. "She's professional, creative, and has a great eye for detail. Everything is super custom. They also taste great."

Smith said her royal icing—made from powdered sugar, egg whites, and flavoring—dries hard for decorating purposes but features a soft bite.

HISTORIC MEETS HAUTE SLO Public Market at 3845 S. Higuera St. blends renovated historic structures with new buildings. Night Shift will join restaurants, retail shops, a brewery, and market hall, with projected openings slated to begin in late October. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO PUBLIC MARKET
  • Photo Courtesy Of Slo Public Market
  • HISTORIC MEETS HAUTE SLO Public Market at 3845 S. Higuera St. blends renovated historic structures with new buildings. Night Shift will join restaurants, retail shops, a brewery, and market hall, with projected openings slated to begin in late October.

"When people tell me the cookies taste as good as they look, that's something I'm really proud of," she said.

Another repeat customer, San Luis Obispo resident Susannah Brown, also plans to hit the new storefront regularly. It's "the best local option for custom-decorated cookies and holiday-themed treats."

Smith uses projectors and 3D printing technology, and continually experiments with new techniques and flavors.

"The double chocolate chip ... that she did for Mother's Day was fabulous," Brown added. "She also makes fun paint-your-own cookie kits occasionally that the kids enjoy creating. Alexa is a wonderful community member and always goes above and beyond with her business to make it perfect for the client."

Smith regularly donates cookies to Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo as well as to Icing Smiles, a national nonprofit that provides custom treats to families impacted by the critical illness of a child, according to its website.

"I wish everyone could love what they do as much as I love making cookies," Smith said. "For right now, I'm just taking things one step at a time, and I'm excited to see how my business will grow in the next year."

In the meantime, stay tuned to Smith's social media sites for news on her grand opening. If you can't wait, visit her website and pick up some goodies directly from her registered home kitchen. Δ

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte thinks Alexa Smith is one smart cookie. Reach her at cwhyte@newtimesslo.com.

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