From Instagram craze to Wellington West: Courage Cookies brings popular brand to Ottawa

A bunch of sparkled cookies.
Toronto-based Courage Cookies has opened its first Ottawa location in Wellington West. Provided photo. 

By Charlie Senack 

Kitchissippi cookie monsters have a new joint in town. 

Toronto-based Courage Cookies officially opened its first location in Ottawa at 1130 Wellington St. W. on May 25. It took over the space formerly housed by Sharple Waffle, which moved to Mechanicville after a dispute with former neighboring business Stella Luna.  

Co-owner Ian Moore, who also serves as the recipe development and creative director, said Wellington West was lacking a shop like theirs.

“We have that home-style feel. Our cookies are thicker and never too sweet. My strength is my palette,” said Moore. ”Some cookies will have a core flavour, others have things added to it. We have multiple varieties of textures going on.” 

The business venture was first started by Moore and business partner Chelsea Hearty in March 2020 when the world shut down due to COVID-19. 

Moore was working in the bar industry with the hopes of one day opening a restaurant, and Hearty had just begun her dream job at a well-known Toronto events firm. It ended in five weeks. 

With so much time on his hands and CERB payments in the bank, the hopeful restaurateur decided to start making cookies. 

“This was when everyone was in their sourdough era and you couldn’t find flour anywhere. I made a chocolate chip cookie and put it on Instagram, and some of our friends went crazy for it,” he said. “We decided to drive around in our car and hand them out.”

It took a little longer for Hearty to get on board. She hadn’t eaten cookies since she was a child. 

“When I was a kid, I ate too many Oreos and I got sick. That was followed by the stomach flu and so it turned me off,” said Hearty. “I was also keto at the time and hadn’t eaten sugar in six months. But after Ian told me to try one of his cookies and I did, I had four or five more before bed that night.”

Rows of cookies in racks.
Courage Cookies reading for tasting at one of its stores in Toronto. Provided Photo.

Hearty has been eating cookies ever since. The duo began making two dozen cookies a night, exploring different textures and flavors with every batch. Within a week they outgrew their home kitchen and started using a restaurant’s instead. 

Pop-ups, markets, and Instagram orders by the dozens soon followed. In four years, they’ve grown to four locations in Toronto with the fifth just opening in Ottawa, where Moore and Hearty are originally from. 

The pair decided they also wanted to somehow give back to the community and began donating a portion of sales to purchasing personal protective equipment during the pandemic. A goal of $10,000 was set. When life returned to normal, attention shifted to other charities and organizations making a difference locally and abroad. 

“Giving back to the community has always been important to me, but I never had the financial meals to donate a lot,” said Hearty.  “I’ve had a lot of cancers affect my family so that was something we wanted to focus on. Now we have probably 100 organizations a year reaching out to us. This is never where I thought this was going. I thought we’d be doing it for a couple of weeks or months.” 

To date, over $100,000 has been raised. Every October and December, Courage Cookies uses its donations to make food hampers which are hand-delivered to those in need. 

When choosing Wellington West as its Ottawa home, Moore, originally from Kanata, said he knew they were moving into a supportive community. 

“It’s an untapped market,” he said. “If I could have dropped a pin on the map, it would have been here. I like the neighborhood, it has lots of foot traffic, it’s not saturated, and it still has free parking.”

The cookie maker said he’s excited to watch the business grow while also expanding their wholesale operations, which is currently in two dozen Toronto cafes and may soon expand to big-box stores. 

As part of its Wellington West opening, Courage Cookies is currently offering a 15 per cent discount for online orders with the code OTTAWA15. 

Ross of cookies ready to be eaten.
Rows upon rows of cookies at Courage Cookies in Toronto. Provided Photo.

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