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Behind the Counter: Cookies By Design

This Fullerton cookie shop has been making sweet treats for special occasions for more than a decade.

Cookies by Design, located in Beltway Plaza shopping center in Fullerton, has been serving up delicious, decorated cookies for more than a decade—and don't let it's status as a franchise location for a national chain fool you, this sweet shop is a family business.

It's owned by Ahmed Shafie, a Bel Air resident who also owns the Subway franchise next door.

When Cookies by Design came up for sale about 4 years ago, Shafie bought it as a surprise for his wife Michelle, who had a lifelong passion for baking and decorating sweets. Shafie's daughter Nora, a pre-med student at UMBC, is currently the head decorator for the shop.

Tragically, after just two years in business, Michelle Shafie passed away.

This is one of the first stories told by long-time employee and store manager Lisa Harris, who has worked at the location for seven years.

"I worked here under the previous owner, and I had always known Michelle from the Subway next door," Harris said. "She had always said she wanted this store."

"You miss everybody that passes—certain people though, leave a huge, huge void," Harris said. "We still have customers who come in today to pay their respects."

Even after the tragic loss of a wife, mother and friend—the folks at Cookies by Design have carried on. Harris said that Ahmed hand-delivers their wares every day, everywhere from Annapolis to Havre de Grace.

"He's very customer-oriented," Harris said. "People will call and ask for milk with their delivery—I'd say we don't do that—but he'll run out to the grocery store asking 'whole milk, skim milk, or soy milk.'"

Cookies by Design actually sells home-made, decorated cookies—designs can range from Disney characters to flowers (which Harris said at least one customer has used to propose marriage)—for special occasions: Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter and Mother's Day are big in the cookie business.

"You can bring in any picture and Nora will knock it right out of the box," Harris said, explaining that the shop primarily does custom work. "Nora is an amazing decorator."

Harris herself is no slouch—she's one of just four employees at the shop and she got interested in baking and decorating while she was a stay-at-home mom.

Every order at Cookies by Design is baked fresh from freshly made dough and decorated with icing made in-house and can usually be turned around in 24 to 48 hours.

"Just yesterday we had a woman come in with an invitation for a baby shower," Harris said. "She said 'this is the theme' and we worked with her, sending her text messages with photos until we got something she liked. She's coming in to pick them up today."

"You always get orders either way in advance or in a pinch," Harris said. "That's just the way it is."

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