One day at work, Oak Park resident Valorie Mitts was baking cookies when a regular customer stopped by for a cup of coffee. Mitts accidentally spilled some coffee beans into the cookie batter, and her coffee cookie was created.
That story fits with the story of her business, the Lil’ Red Wagon Coffee House, which re-opened in April after a five-year hiatus. Coffee is just an ingredient to success, but the cookies are the focus of the business.
Mitts has been baking cookies since she was a girl, and over time she’s created more than 50 unique flavors, including coconut pecan, PB&J and mint julep.
“I just prayed over the batter. Lord, just let people love it,” she said “That’s when I knew I had something, when I was selling cookies and nothing else.”
She closed the business in 2008 after two years near Garfield Street and Harlem Avenue, mostly attributing the struggles to the lack of foot traffic. With her new space at 818 S. Oak Park Ave., she said she’s had a lot more customers since opening in April 2013.
The coffee shop also features, sandwiches, wraps, soups, muffins and more, including a wide selection of candy that kids can put in baskets. There isn’t much seating, but there are a couple comfortable couches, a small table at which children can play and free WiFi. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere conducive to individuals working on laptops or families stopping in for a treat.
Mitts said she wants to add events such as live music or spoken word, and also feature local art on the walls. But the walls enclosing the coffee shop aren’t all that’s on Mitts’ mind. She wants to grow her cookie business outside of the Oak Park Avenue location.
She’s started by taking samples around to other local businesses, and is now making cookies for the Under the Gingko Tree bed and breakfast in Oak Park. She wants to keep it small for the time being, focusing mostly on places around Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest. But getting cookies sold wholesale in other stores is her dream.
“That’s my vision, my long-term goal,” she said. “People love the cookies. I’m a powerhouse on the move.”
Lil’ Red Wagon Coffee House is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and closed Sundays. Call 708-358-1100 for more information.