Debbi Fields, the Cookie Lady, wants to bite into the business of handmade gifts.
Her second Jenessa's store--the first in California--officially opened Thursday at the MainPlace/Santa Ana mall, where there is also a Mrs. Fields cookie counter.
The newest Jenessa's shop uses the same recipe for success as the original in Park City, Utah: lots of handmade accessories and stuffed bunnies in a cozy, down-home setting that looks like your grandmother's bedroom.
Merchandise at the 1,800-square-foot store ranges from hair bows and tree ornaments at $5 each to country furniture assembled with leather strips instead of nails. In between, there are carloads of ruffles, lace, hearts, willow furniture, quilts, floral wreaths, whitewashed baskets and artwork.
"The one criterion is that (merchandise) is handmade," says Fields, 30. Fields founded the Park City-based Mrs. Fields Inc., which last year did $87 million in sales. Whether cookies or trinkets, she figures, "the greatest gift is one that someone takes the time to make for somebody."
Fields cooked up the idea of opening the first Jenessa's store in Park City with merchandise that employees got from neighbors who made items at home. She projects the Santa Ana store will have sales topping $300,000 during the first year.
Fields has gotten out of the kitchen and into other businesses too. Her company--which went public in May, 1986--owns La Petite Boulangerie, a chain of 125 bakery/cafes bought from Pepsico last April. Then there's Jessica's Cookies, an East Coast chain; Jenny's Swingset, which sells children's playwear, and Jenessa's. (The smaller chains are named for her three daughters.) And, of course, those 550 Mrs. Fields cookie stores in 28 states.
Whether Fields cooks up more Jenessa's stores depends on whether customers eat up her handmade gifts as much as they have her namesake chocolatey treats. But so far, she says, the response to Jenessa's here "has been really positive."