WASHINGTON — Kirk Francis has a serious obsession with cookies — a fascination he can trace back to the age of 4, when he learned to bake. And as he got older, his craze for cookies only intensified.
“When I was a kid, and still now, I would eat cookies until there weren’t cookies anymore — chocolate chip cookies in particular. If we had them in the house, breakfast would be five, and then lunch would be about 10 chocolate chip cookies, and then dinner would be 12 chocolate chip cookies, and then I would get sick. So, I mean, I like cookies to an uncomfortable degree,” says Francis, 29.
“If it was anything but cookies — you know, if it were, like, stamps — then people would be like, ‘That dude is weird.’ But it’s cookies, so it’s fine. It’s a lovable obsession.”
For the past three years, Francis has been sharing his lovable obsession all over D.C. with his fleet of three food trucks. But now, his business, Captain Cookie and the Milkman, has a home.
Last week, Francis opened his first store, on Pennsylvania Avenue in Foggy Bottom. And if the long lines formed by those eager to get a taste of Francis’ famous ice cream cookie sandwiches were any indication, it’s safe to say his cookie obsession has spread.
“The line was just silly. I was frantically scooping cookies at 10:30 p.m.; I look out the window and see the line is wrapping past the elevators,” Francis says. He initially planned to stay open until 2 a.m. on that first day, but had to close around midnight after running out of milk and 60 gallons of ice cream.
In 2009, Francis tested the waters of building a baking business when he supplied a handful of local coffee shops and cafes with his homemade treats. But it was all done in his “spare time,” since he also worked about 50 hours a week as a government contractor.
After baking on the side for about four years, Francis finally decided to pursue it full-time. D.C.’s food-truck phenomenon was just beginning, so he bought an old Washington Post delivery van and outfitted it with appliances, running water and new paint.
“And I sailed out with my cookie truck a couple of weeks later, and started selling cookies out on the street,” says Francis, who lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
Francis encountered a few obstacles in what he calls “the Wild West” of the food truck world — dodging parking enforcement, edging out other trucks and navigating the city streets amidst “a crazy bloodbath of driving acrobatics.” But he eventually found his groove.
“It went well. People bought cookies, and we were getting more requests than I could handle. And I built a second truck, because that’s what you do when business is good,” Francis says.
Since then, he’s built a staff of 25 employees and two additional trucks — three roam the streets of D.C.; one sits in a parking lot where it’s waiting to be driven down to Florida to expand the Captain Cookie business.
“I didn’t want to really go north because north is cold,” Francis says about his plans for the fourth Captain Cookie and the Milkman truck. “South is much more pleasant — a longer ice cream cookie sandwich season.”
Expanding to a brick-and-mortar was less planned. Francis says he was in the George Washington University neighborhood with the truck when he came across a building with space available for lease. After a long and arduous process, Francis ended up beating out 19 other food businesses anxious to occupy the space. He got the keys in August 2014, renovated the two-story shop and is now open for business.
In the store, Francis sells a long list of cookie varieties, such as chocolate chip, Nutella, peanut butter, vegan chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, and he rotates in weekly specials.
“We’ll take customer requests, too. Right now, they really want the M&M cookie back,” he says.
His list of Tricking Spring Creamery ice cream flavors is just as extensive. Francis also sells milk (because you can’t have cookies without milk), milkshakes and homemade sodas.
Francis says he’s still experimenting with morning hours to see whether he can attract a coffee crowd, but he plans to stay open until midnight Sundays through Thursdays and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
And while D.C. is home to a number of bakeries and specialty baked goods shops, Francis isn’t worried that cookies will get lost in the competition. He says that unlike cupcakes and doughnuts, cookies are timeless.
“I think there are some very quality bakeshops out there that have been making good cupcakes and will continue making good cupcakes, but I think there are a whole lot of trendy little cupcake places that aren’t going to last very long. And doughnuts are delicious — I love doughnuts — but … doughnuts are pretty much a morning thing. And if you eat too many of them, you kind of hate yourself,” Francis says.
“I think cookies are like the radio. They’ve been around for a long time and they’re going to stay around for a long time. Things will come and go in the meantime.”
Captain Cookie and the Milkman is on 21st and I Streets NW at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave.
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