FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Maureen Madden and her sister Theresa Kacmarik are the owners of Fort Wayne’s own Cookie Cottage. Over the years, it’s become one of the community’s favorite spots to grab a sweet treat, or a dozen.

For this Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting these hard-working women who battled adversity to make their business a sweet success.

“It was really hard for women 34 years ago to start a business,” said Madden.

The sisters learned that firsthand when they tried to apply for a loan to start their small business.

“We went to get a loan at a bank and no one would give us a loan and they said that our husbands needed to cosign, and we were put back by that,” said Madden. “We found a woman banker and she said she believed in us and she gave us the loan.”

Madden and Kacmarik, owners of Cookie Cottage

Women supporting women.

Even with that boost of confidence, the ladies found they were still not being taken seriously in the business world.

“I’m not sure who it was that said this to us, it was gentleman, and he didn’t know if he had…’who do I have here, a couple of little girls who want to start a lemonade stand?’ And that was an insult,” said Kacmarik.

They also recall having a booth at a show where they were selling their cookies. Customers weren’t approaching them until their husbands showed up. It was only after that that people started showing interest.

It would’ve been easy for these two entrepreneurs to throw in the towel, but they proved instead that hard work and perseverance pays off. The sisters worked long hours, baking, cleaning, delivering, and making a name for their business all while growing and raising their families.

Since opening their first store in 1989, they’ve grown their business immensely. The first shop was a 250 square foot building on Crescent Avenue that is now home to Summer Sno. They moved to a bigger location on State Boulevard, then into a strip mall near Coliseum Boulevard and Coldwater Road. Their biggest expansion yet came in 2018 when they opened their 6,300 square foot shop on Washington Center Road where they employ more than 40 people, many of whom are family members.

Cookie Cottage sells millions of cookies a year, more than half are the iced sugar cookie, and their output nearly triples during the holiday season.

Every day you’ll find a line of customers inside the store, and others stopping by the pick up to-go orders.

Glass case of cookies inside Cookie Cottage

“I’ve been coming here for about 20 years getting cookies for my customers, and I’m doing that again today,” said longtime customer Stu Hambrick. “It’s just a tradition in Fort Wayne, a great local business.”

Tawny Hinrichsen is from Noble County, but moved to Florida several years ago. She was in town last week and had one important stop to make.

“Every time I visit Fort Wayne I try to come and the reason why is because the cookies are amazing,” she said. “I’m trying to take a box of cookies home but they have to make it until Sunday when my flight goes out of Fort Wayne so I don’t know if they’ll make it.”

Madden and Kacmarik are proud of their success as a locally-owned, women-owned business in Fort Wayne and thank their loyal customers for supporting them every step of the way.

“I think Fort Wayne is a city that embraces local,” said Madden. “Without the support of our customers we couldn’t be what we are.”

The sisters have a deep, strong bond and always put each other first. In fact, they made a vow early on that if anything came between them, they would give up their business.

Clearly, they’ve made it work.

“It was nice because when one of us was up, the other was down, so we balanced out. Because you know at one point you feel like just giving up but you have the encouragement of you sister,” said Kacmarik.

“That’s true, because I know that if I was doing it by myself I don’t know if I could‘ve hung in there,” said Madden.

While they are the owners of a successful business, the two have no formal business background. Luckily it worked for them, but their advice to other business owners is to go to school for business and learn as much as they can about the ins and outs of running a business.

You can visit Cookie Cottage at 620 W. Washington Center Road.