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Editor’s Note: This is one in an occasional series of stories about vendors who sell at the Clayton Farm & Community Market.
CLAYTON — Maria Buckenberger makes her home in Apex, which means she could have sold her cookies at her choice of farmers’ markets in the Triangle.
But Buckenberger chose the Clayton Farm & Community Market in part because a downtown Clayton merchant had been so welcoming. “I was given an opportunity by Christi Thompson, the owner of The Market at 3 Little Birds, to place my cookies for sale at her store,” Buckenberger said. “You can find my cookies there most days.”
Since then, Buckenberger has made her way to other Clayton stores and events and always found “a warm reception,” she said. “I love the small-town feel of Clayton.”
Buckenberger launched her venture, NC Cookie Momster, in March of 2019. And yes, it’s play on Cookie Monster, the Muppet character with a voracious appetite for cookies. “I was trying to think of something clever that included NC in the name,” she said.
Buckenberger, who has lived in Apex since 2009, also happens to be a mom, with two daughters, ages 13 and 23.
And she knows her way around a kitchen. “I grew up in an Italian household where all of our food was homemade and fresh,” said Buckenberger, a 52-year-old native of Long Island, N.Y. “So I am used to cooking and baking from scratch from when I was a child.”
Though her business is not quite a year old, Buckenberger has been creating her cookies for much longer. “I have been making sweets since I moved to North Carolina around 14 years ago,” she said. “I used to bake for friends and family and at holidays. I always enjoyed when I received positive feedback from my baking.”
For her business, she chose cookies over cakes or pies because, well, she likes cookies. “I make old-fashioned cookies ... like molasses, black and white, chocolate chip and oatmeal,” she said. “Cookies bring back memories for me. For example, my rugelach cookies remind me of my Italian aunt because she made them for us every Christmas growing up.”
Cookies, Buckenberger added, allow her to be creative, experimenting with different ingredients. “They are small too so you can eat more than one,” she said.
At the Clayton Farm & Community Market, her chocolate chip cookie is always popular, Buckenberger said. “Chocolate chip is always available and has been a customer favorite since I started,” she said.
But since launching her business last March, Buckenberger said, she has been experimenting in the kitchen. “The newest bestseller is sea salt chocolate caramel,” she said.
Buckenberger said she enjoys trying out new ideas and recipes. Recently, she came across an online recipe for a Heath bar potato chip cookie. “But I added white chocolate chips and made it my own,” she said. “It is a bestseller. People like that salty-sweet combination.”
The oatmeal, peanut butter and pretzel chocolate chip cookie was less successful, Buckenberger said. “I think there was too much going on,” she said. Perhaps just as crucially, “I believe people are not a fan of having pretzels in their cookies,” she added.
Buckenberger is at the Clayton Farm & Community Market as her schedule allows, at least once or twice a month. “It is a good market,” she said, adding that her cookies had received “a great reception” in Clayton.
So much so that “I would like to increase my visibility by attending more local events,” Buckenberger said, adding that she might try to get her cookies in more Clayton stores too.