Here’s news that’s fresh out of the oven — after 11 years in the neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen’s favorite cookie shop Schmackary’s plans to expand its fanciful treat offerings across the US.
“It’s been a crazy few years,” said Schmackary’s founder Zachary Schmahl, better known to locals as Broadway’s Favorite Cookie Monster. The brand has delighted Theater District regulars with freshly-baked, inventive cookie flavors and Broadway-burnished collaborations on W45th Street for over a decade — but after challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was time for a new chapter. “We wondered, ‘where do we go from here?’” said Zachary. “We’re a home away from home for so many people in New York, and it led us to think, as the saying goes,‘If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere!’”
Serendipitously, another organization had its eye on the passionate following Zachary and the Schmackary’s team have cooked up over the years. “We were put in touch with Dan at Fransmart — a company responsible for the successful franchising of brands like 5 Guys Burgers and Fries and the Halal Guys,” Zachary told W42ST. “I thought, ‘I’ll give this guy a call and see what he’s all about’ — and he told us that he’d been around the world looking for the next great dessert franchise,” he added. “Fransmart wanted to work with us not only because of our product, but also the feeling that’s evoked by being in the store. And I was excited to see someone who saw what I did in Schmackary’s.”
The two agreed to work together and are now fielding calls from potential franchisees, a process that Zachary says will be a careful and considered one. “I want people to open a Schmackary’s store for the right reasons,” he said. “There are so many franchises trying to sell you products in a white-walled, sterile environment, and that’s not what we are. There’s a heartbeat behind this company, and our ethos is to make our customers feel like family,” he added. “I’m from Nebraska, so I always emphasize that we want to give people genuine Midwestern customer service with a soul! We want people who see that, and see us for what we are.”
Schmackary’s is definitively connected to New York’s theater community, and with flavors dedicated to new musicals and frequent appearances by their stars, it has established itself as the Broadway bakery. That’s something Zachary plans to keep at the brand’s new outposts, he told W42ST. “We are so tapped into the community here, and building off of that is how we grow,” he said. “We’re looking at some locations in the Tri-State area, where some of our loyal customer base already are, as well as in cities that host touring productions. For a lot of people, their New York ritual is going to a show and then going to Schmackary’s — and we want people to be able to do the same near touring venues!”
While their famously-rotating flavors may not appear quite as quickly on franchise menus — “I’m used to dreaming up a flavor and seeing it on our menu the next week!” laughed Zachary — they hope to incorporate the same spirit of creativity at other Schmackary stores. “We’ll likely have a set menu to start out,” he added, “but nothing would make me more excited than an operator who is also super collaborative and wants to feature the shows in their city. Our store will also always serve as the test kitchen — we’ll continue to come up with new flavors, because I love being creative!”
In addition to maintaining its identity as the brand’s test kitchen and flagship, the Hell’s Kitchen location will continue to invest locally in its customers and community. “When I moved to Hell’s Kitchen in 2008, it was the place to be,” said Zachary. “I barely used to leave because I could find anything I needed here! The pandemic took a big toll on the neighborhood, and there were so many fellow businesses we loved that closed,” he added. “I really want Hell’s Kitchen to come back and be the heartbeat of New York!”
And though he’s thrilled to begin a new era for Schmackary’s in other theater hubs across the country, Zachary couldn’t help but reflect on the incredible journey he’d been on right here in Hell’s Kitchen. “When I started Schmackary’s, I was a kid with a dream,” he told W42ST. “I had no idea what we would become. In 11 years we’d never spent money on advertising — only word of mouth! The neighborhood and the theater community became our advocates. People I had always looked up to like Kristin Chenoweth, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Audra McDonald would come in — it was beyond my wildest dreams,” he added. “I came here having the dream of making it on Broadway, and through Schmackary’s, I did! It’s been a true rollercoaster of a decade, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
You can visit the first Schmackary’s at 362 W45th St (between 8/9th Avenue) 9am to 11pm seven days a week.