Cookie WalkDec 01, 2021 09:00AM ● By Karey Solomon
In Hammondsport, Santa doesn’t need to wait until Christmas Eve for his cookies. On December 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., he’ll be able to stroll the village, cookie tin in hand, collecting a sweet treat at every stop.
Villagers and tourists use the day to visit, shop, explore, and learn about the good things offered by twenty-five participating merchants, innkeepers, restauranteurs, and professionals. Most of these are in walking distance from each other, so the sidewalks, like the stores, are filled with holiday cheer and the anticipation of goodies.
Each host has to produce at least 150 cookies to fill the special commemorative tins the Hammondsport Chamber of Commerce, organizers of the event, have available each year. The cookies must be homemade and individually wrapped—with thought given to pretty presentation as well as the deliciousness inside. A twenty-five dollar registration fee gives you a tin and list of businesses to visit for cookies.
Melissa Tobias of Tobias & Co. Salon, 67 Shelthar Street, is both a recently-opened new business and a returning one. Her former location, Mane Street Hair and Nails, was much smaller. Expanded, renamed, and rebranded, she says she’s looking forward to showing cookie walkers her new digs. “The salon we were in before was very small. In our new space, we can definitely offer tours. I know a lot of people are interested.” How will she top last year’s caramel apple cookies? Walkers will discover the answer the day of the event.
At The Cinnamon Stick, a gift shop at 26 Mechanic Street, Terry Pennise is currently considering cookie recipes. Last year she made pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips. She’s still mulling over this year’s possibilities.
“It’s such a nice family event,” she says. “The stores are decorated, everyone’s in a good mood because they’re getting cookies! Some people just come in to get their cookies, some take advantage of doing some shopping.” The dental office of Terry’s husband, Dr. Sam Pennise, is another cookie stop. Terry says plans there are in the capable hands of his staff.
Because not every business owner is a baker, cookies for at least two establishments are created by Wendy Smith Hill, whose Simply Sweet Home Bakery (find her on Facebook) is a second job. She always makes a spicy gingerbread for the Shaw Insurance Agency at 23 Shethar Street; she’ll also be baking for Sarah Shirley of Mersur, a boutique at 64 Shethar Street whose name is based on the vacation idea of mermaids and surfers. “All her cookies are pure perfection,” Sarah says enthusiastically. “Baking is her zone of genius.”
Every evening in the days before the cookie walk, sweet smells of butter, spices, and sugar waft from Wendy’s commercial kitchen where every available surface is filled with hundreds of cookies cooling, getting decorated, or being packaged with a pretty ribbon, a process that takes even more time than baking them.
“When you think of Christmas, you think of Christmas cookies. It’s tradition, this time of year, and Hammondsport is an old-fashioned nostalgic town.” Wendy says she loves going on the cookie walk. “You get the sense of Christmas in the air,” she says. “Some of the people will have cocoa or hot apple cider, everything is already decorated for Christmas. A lot of times the stores will have specials and the Village Square is decorated. Of course, you always hope for a little snow in the air.” But no matter the weather, there are always cookies. And Wendy has no objection to getting cookies she baked to add to her collection.
“I’m thinking of something that’s kind of tropical,” says Sarah, considering her upcoming consultation with Wendy. “I like when people bite into something, they’re whisked away someplace. That’s my brand. Nostalgic about the holidays and tasting a flavor they’ve never tasted before.” Last year’s cookie walk “was literally one of my favorite days of the year. It was pretty magical, like a party! I bought a cookie tin for my parents and had them go to all the different places. And it’s an easy way for business owners to get exposure, for people to get to know, like, and trust you.”
“It’s absolutely fun,” says Tami Reinhart, proprietor of the Blushing Rose Bed and Breakfast at 11 William Street, just off the village square. “It reminds me of when I was young.” Her pastry-chef grandmother introduced Tami and her sister Lisa Keenan to the joys of baking and cooking, arts she’s put to use for her family and guests. Her B&B has a full complement of guests for the weekend. “I believe they’re all coming for the cookie walk. They’ll shop around, visit some wineries and shops around the lake.”
As Tami made a test-batch of molasses crinkle cookies, the sisters debated the relative merits of pecans versus walnuts in the Italian wedding cake cookies Lisa is crafting for another business. Lisa decided to go with pecans. They’ll be baking their final recipes by the hundreds instead of the required one-cookie-per-package, because “We’re Italian, so we want to give people more food,” Lisa explains.
Want to find out what Santa Claus thinks about all these cookies? He’ll be in the lobby of the Finger Lakes Boating Museum at 8231 Pleasant Valley Road. “We seem to get a pretty good crowd coming through, even though we’re a little out of town,” says Julie Johnson, the museum’s bookkeeper, who’s often at the front desk. Museum volunteers will make the cookies; Santa—don’t tell the kids he’s another volunteer—is available to hear your wishes.
Find more information about the Cookie Walk, the following week’s “Christmas in the Park,” and other events at the chamber’s website, hammondsport.org.