BUCKTOWN — There are those who believe gingerbread is strictly a holiday cookie in the shape of a little bald man. And then there is Julie Goding.
As the owner of Dough Dough Bird Baking Company, Goding bakes gingerbread, and only gingerbread, for consumption in both the wintry and warm months.
"Why can't we enjoy it year-round?" said Goding, 51, of North Center.
Working out of the kitchen at Veruca Chocolates, 2409 N. Western Ave., she makes classic gingerbread men, round "drops" and, depending on the month, flowers, hearts, pumpkins and ghosts. For an upcoming gay wedding, she plans on making gingerbread men couples.
Her cookies are soft, not too sweet and just spicy enough, with a thin coat of icing that snaps gently with each bite. Goding said she will add an un-iced version in the coming months.
Janet Fuller explains why gingerbread is usually a holiday treat on DNAinfo Radio:
Goding was a graphic designer and art director for 20 years. She had a reputation as that co-worker who brought homemade cookies to the office, to friends, to her favorite butchers at Paulina Meat Market.
She baked all kinds of cookies, not just gingerbread, but her gingerbread — made with a friend's recipe, which Goding has "changed the heck out of" over the years — was something special. She said people would tell her the same thing: "'Julie, you've got to sell these gingerbread cookies.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, right.'"
Then, in 2009, she was laid off from her job at a marketing firm.
"I finally decided I can do the cookie. I didn't want to do five different things. Just one cookie," she said.
Goding enrolled in the French Pastry School in the Loop and graduated in 2010. She launched Dough Dough Bird (she credits the name to "my husband's brilliance") in November, just in time for peak gingerbread season.
"My family and friends were my little elves. I had a lot of help," she said.
Her first customer was the Paulina Meat Market. Heather Johnston, owner of Veruca Chocolates where Goding rents kitchen space, suggested Goding talk to Lisa Santos of Southport Grocery and Cafe, who became her second client.
Santos in turn urged Goding to take cookie samples over to Olivia's Market in Bucktown, so she did.
"Two hours later, I got the phone call saying, 'We're placing our order," Goding said.
Her gingerbread is permanently on the shelves at Olivia's Market, 2014 W. Wabansia Ave., and is a seasonal item at Southport Grocery and Paulina Market. Customers also can order on her website. For local orders, they can arrange for pickup at the Veruca storefront.
In May, Goding caught a lucky break — a booth at the Sweets and Snacks Expo at McCormick Place. Back in October, she had applied for the spot in the show's Innovation Alley for startups less than a year old. It happened to be just the right time to do so.
Goding has been fielding calls about distribution of her cookies ever since the expo, including one from a major Midwestern grocery chain.
For now, she is focused on finding help for winter production of her gingerbread, which for Goding begins in earnest in July.
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