This is part of a series of interviews of people that make up the patchwork quilt of personalities that is San Francisco.
I first met Christa the same way many people do while enjoying some sun in Dolores Park. I immediately fell in love with her charming personality and energy she brings to embodying “Hey, Cookie!”. If you have been living under a rock somewhere and somehow haven’t made it out to Dolores Park on a sunny afternoon, then you may not know who she is. Christa visits Dolores Park and several other locations selling her sweet little treats wearing her signature dresses and carrying her antique wicker basket. To note, her baked edibles are “non-medicinal” as in they don’t have any pot in them. This is something you actually have to clarify in San Francisco when selling cookies and brownies.
Christa has become a friend of mine recently and even made a surprise appearance at my birthday party at 500 Club where she brought me a Rice Krispy Treat with a candle and a party hat.
Missionhipsters: So for people who don’t know, what is “Hey, Cookie” and where can they tend to find you?
Christa Hill: “Hey, Cookie!” is a dessert catering service. You can typically find me in Dolores park or bars in The Castro, Mission, or Lower Haight. My cookies are also sold at Claire’s Deli, H Cafe on 17th Street, DRIPD Coffee on 9th Avenue, and Cup of Joe on Sutter.
MH: What did you do before you started selling treats in the park?
CH: I’m originally from Maryland, just outside of DC, a town called Bowie (spelled just like David Bowie, but pronounced Boo-wee). I came out to San Francisco during spring break while in my Junior year of college…When I drove over the bridge into the city it was like Dorothy finding Oz. I Just loved it. I decided to come to California after college, and I served as a Vista volunteer in Monterey County. I later worked as the Executive Director for the the Albany-Berkeley-Emeryville Chapter of Rebuilding Together and the Major Gifts Officer for the Gorilla Foundation.
Community service and community building are still very important to me. I try to donate Hey, Cookie’s services at least once a month to different charities. For example, in the past month, I sold cookies to raise money for Swoony for Muni, where all the profits went toward improving Bay Area transit.
MH: How did you come up with idea for “Hey, Cookie!”?
I used to offer my help with fundraisers for friends and local organizations because of my nonprofit background. A few years ago, I held a bake sale for a rabbit rescue organization, SaveABunny, on the eve of Easter. I didn’t bake a thing—I just facilitated the event. I mobilized volunteers, coordinated efforts, and set up shop. We raised $1,200 in four hours.
The next year, I quit my job when my mom had a stroke. When Easter was coming up, I thought that I should help SaveABunny again, and then I thought, “Wait a minute—maybe I should help myself!” That’s how it got started. I truly thought it was just going to be a one-day event, but it turned out to be a really fun and rewarding position.
I continued to sell my cookies in the park and was lucky enough to sell out each the time. One day, I didn’t sell out, so I popped into Moby Dick’s in The Castro and ended up selling the rest. I sought out more bars where the bartenders or bouncers said it was okay to come in. Eventually, I started doing birthday deliveries, and deliveries to companies like Yelp or organizations like SPUR.
MH: Where did the name “Hey, Cookie” come from?
CH: People started calling me Alice and Dorothy based off my outfit. Other people called out “Hey Cookie Lady!” or “Cookie”. So, “Hey, Cookie!” seemed to be the perfect fit for this tiny, mobile cookie shop.
MH: I’m trying to think how to describe your outfit – perhaps German Milkmaid Realness?
CH: I wanted something goofy and unique. My first outfit was actually a square dancing dress. I now have over 25 dresses, including dirndls, the female version of lederhosen. Having an outfit allows me to become “Hey, Cookie!”, it’s like having armor when I might be feeling too shy to sell.
MH: What’s it like to be recognized as a part of the Dolores Park experience? Why is it important to stand out from the crowd?
CH: I suppose it is basic marketing. It’s important to be visible and recognizable. I have become my very own walking logo, and it is so exciting to know that it is working!
What better compliment than to hear that people have dressed up as “Hey, Cookie!” for Halloween? It just makes me beam!
During the past two Bay to Breakers, my close buddies were kind enough to don tights, dresses and wigs, and become “Hey, Cookie!” for the race. It was my friend Tessa Greenwood’s brilliant idea to underscore the brand, and I think it really worked.
MH: What types of cookies do you sell?
CH: There are many variety of cookies, and the list keeps growing! The current offerings, include: chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, butterscotch oatmeal, vegan mexican wedding cookies, gluten-free peanut butter with peanut butter cups, bourbon cranberry and white chocolate, chocolate and mint, toffee, triple chocolate cherry, paleo coconut cups, gluten-free rich chocolate morsels, snickerdoodles; as well as some other treats: brownies, Rice Krispie treats, raspberry shortbread bars, spicy pumpkin bites, and caramel chocolate coconut delights.
MH: What do you enjoy about what you do? Anything ever get on your nerves?
CH: What I really enjoy about what I do is that I can visibly see that I am brightening people’s days. People recognize me when I’m out and they smile. I can feel their warmth and support. They make me so happy and keep me going, even when I am tired, or feeling discouraged about “pushing” cookies in a goofy dress.
I am a people person, so people don’t tend to get on my nerves, however, I often hear, “You do know you’d make a lot more money if you put pot in these cookies?”. It can be a little taxing to hear it over, and over, and over again. Some people are even put off to be offered non-medicinal treat, but that’s just not my thing.
MH: What do you like about living in your neighborhood?
CH: I live in the Castro, and have lived in my sleepy little Victorian for 18 years. I absolutely love my neighbors, local businesses and my community. It genuinely feels like my extended family.
One example of this sense of community occurred when I lost my pet rabbit named Maddie. Maddie used to hop around in the small garden in front of my house semi-supervised, and was a delight to all that passed by. One day, Maddie was bunny-napped from the front of the house. Somehow, she made her way down to civic center where she was found and brought to the SPCA. This little lost rabbit made quite a splash in our neighborhood. I received cards, phone calls, flowers from neighbors expressing their support/concern that she was missing and their joy when she returned. It is that sense of community and care for each other that truly makes the Castro my home.