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Baker hopes for sweet holiday

Posted: December 14, 2008 6:00 p.m.
Updated: December 15, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Lady Di's owner Diane Knight gets help from her son, Christopher, as they put together a package of decorated holiday cookies.

 

If Santa had a sweet tooth, Lady Di's Cookies in Westridge would surely be his workshop.

The 1,100 square foot retail storefront is awash in holiday colors and tempting treats, including 15 types of cookies, four different brownies, caramel apples, cupcakes, chocolate-dipped strawberries and much more.

Owner Diane Knight started Lady Di's Cookies in her home 15 years ago. She expanded to a commercial kitchen a few months later.

Lady Di's Cookies quickly became the rage in Hollywood, where Knight targeted entertainment industry marketing executives with a sample basket.

Her products became standard fare on the sets of "Mad About You," "Frasier," and "Seinfeld."

While the packaged goodies were a big hit, customers soon began to inquire about a Lady Di's store.

"People would call and say, ‘We don't want a basket, we want 10 cookies or one cookie," Knight said. "So I said, alright, let's try it."

She invested in a rack oven that bakes up to 400 cookies at a time, hired staff, installed a full espresso bar and kept the commitment to quality Knight feels sets her apart from the competition - real butter, whole oats, pure chocolate and daily, if not hourly, baking.

The recipes came from Knight's childhood where as a girl she would dream of cookies.

"When I awoke the next morning, I could make that cookie by the way it smelled in my dream, by the way it looked. I just put the ingredients together without measuring. They're the same today as they were when I was 12," Knight said.

The holiday season is a favorite for Knight, who estimates producing more than 20,000 cookies and shipping hundreds of packages a day during the month of December.

Those numbers are a far cry from the slowdown Knight has recently experienced with the economic crisis affecting families and businesses nationwide.

"I had an automobile dealership client that used to buy 200 packages from me every month. That stopped in September, as have a lot of other corporate accounts," Knight said. "It's been a real struggle to make it through the last few months but I'm hopeful the holiday season will pull me through."

The downturn has made the fifth anniversary of her retail store in Westridge this November a bittersweet one.

Though she knows many consumers are cutting back this year's holiday expenditures, Knight hopes that Santa Clarita Valley residents and business owners will support a local baker rather than a catalog for food gifts.

"Our products are fresh and delicious, and we offer the same shipping and ordering conveniences bigger companies do," Knight said, referring to online ordering at www.ladydiscookies.com.

"Plus, being local, if people want to come buy the store and sample something they want to send as a gift, we're happy to let them and work together on creating the perfect packaging."

A proud supporter of several community non-profits, including Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Foundation and The Brittany Foundation, Knight knows that despite her own recent economic concerns, many have more pressing problems that become all the more apparent during the holidays.

Her son, Christopher, age 10, touched Knight when she came across his letter to Santa.

"Dear Santa Claus: How are you doing? I can't wait for Christmas! I'd really like a nice present this year, but I have to accept whatever you and my parents give me. So please do me a favor by giving each child of the world a present to comfort their hearts just so that they will have something to be happy about. Love, Christopher."

Putting comfort in the hearts of people is something Knight strives for each and every day.

"Something as simple as a cookie spreads smiles on people's faces. That's why I'm so happy doing this business," Knight said. "I love being the cookie lady."

Lady Di's cookie options include classics like chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter, which are bestsellers, as well as gourmet concoctions such as snickerdoodle and triple chocolate treat which boasts white, milk and dark chocolate chips.

Bar varieties range from rocky road or Reese's brownies to the magic cookie bar, with a graham crust, coconut and butterscotch and chocolate chips.

Cookies start at $1.40 to $3.50 for the hefty brownies, while packages range from $9.95 for a four-cookie theme box to $21.95 and up for baskets. Lady Di's hand delivers in the SCV and ships nationwide.

Lady Di's Cookies, 26882 The Old Road, Valencia. Holiday store hours are Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-9 p.m, Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. For information, call (661) 222-9102 or visit www.ladydiscookies.com.

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