Levain cookies are some of the most sought-after treats in the country today, and if you haven’t stood in a line around the block to get them fresh out of the oven in New York City, chances are you’ve had them shipped to your door. This week, we’re sitting down with founders Pam Weekes and Connie McDonald, who started Levain Bakery 27 years ago. They tell us about their journey, their product, and what it looks like to run and grow a successful bakery.
The pair went from quietly selling the cookies to 27 years later having 11 bakeries across New York, Washington DC and Boston, with plans to expand beyond the east coast later this year — doubling their number of bakeries by 2025. They tell us how they’ve done it, and discuss the concerns that they had (and that many entrepreneurs have) that they’re growing too fast.
I think many people growing a business find themselves asking: Are we growing too fast, or getting too big? You had just your original single location for so many years — how have you been able to grow at a rate that you’re happy with? They also discuss how they navigated the pandemic, because during that time, they met a 200% increase in e-commerce demand, and expanded with new storefronts. Over the last four years, their revenue increased by 5x, and e-commerce increased sales by 12x. In other words, they pivoted and found growth when many other small businesses couldn’t.
Pam and Connie also tell us how they’ve managed to build a loyal customer base and not just be a flash in the pan similar to many other “trending” deserts we’ve all seen on Instagram, like the cronut, the fish waffle or the Suprême. All of these had hours-long lines at one point… and now no one is talking about them. But people are still lined up outside Levain. They tell us how they’ve built loyalty and maintained a level of consistency for a quarter of a century.
Plus, a new guest this week in Mailbag! Associate Producer Chelsey Zhu joins Jean to talk through listener questions on family spending.
Shop With Levain This Holiday Season
For the first time ever, Levain Bakery is launching an exclusive holiday tin for their decadent cookies. The tin features whimsical holiday vignettes designed by illustrator Libby Vanderploeg whose illustrations have been featured in Levain’s branding for years.