For those of us who can hardly draw a straight line, it’s hard to believe Reagan Thompson’s exquisite confections are the mere result of “so much practice,” as she insists. The humble baker may poke fun at being the resident “cookie lady,” but her mini masterpieces have already garnered the attention of thousands beyond the ‘Hills.
What began five years ago as a “total fail” for her son Carter’s second birthday party evolved into an artistic endeavor that has captured the taste buds of locals and the double taps of 7,000 Instagram followers, and counting. “The cookies were so bad, they were hard as rocks at first,” the Vestavia Hills native admits.
Reagan couldn’t tell you what fueled the cookie-making moxie that followed her first attempt. She documented her baking journey on her @reabakes Instagram account, initially intended for friends and family who wouldn’t mind being inundated with cookie content.
When one of her mother’s coworkers requested to place an order, Reagan was thunderstruck. “I was like, ‘An order…really?!’ I wasn’t trying to make a business out of it, but from then on, it grew into this,” recalls Reagan, who was an undecided UAB major at the time.
With some encouragement from her now-husband and high school sweetheart, Colin, she abandoned plans for a “normal job” and pursued a degree around her passion. “When I started out, I didn’t have the marketing background, so I didn’t know what I was doing. It was fun to go through classes while growing my business. It helped a lot!” she says.
Fast forward a few years, and Reagan is fielding business inquiries like it’s a part-time job. Through her savvy social media marketing, she’s maximized exposure to her target audience of young moms and brides-to-be. Her posts practically advertise themselves.
Fortunately for her sanity, Reagan is restricted to local orders only, as her home bakery operates under Alabama’s Cottage Law. “The Cottage Law gives me an excuse not to ship. You have to sell your goods straight out of your house, and they can’t be perishable,” Reagan explains.
The self-professed yes-woman limits herself to an ambitious five orders per week, often booking out months in advance. “Right now, I’m probably doing more than I should. I’ve had to turn down a lot of people, just because I’m pregnant,” she says, regretful of disappointing would-be customers.
Reagan allocates the first three days of every week for handcrafting her original designs, which have inspired admiring hobbyists on Instagram. Reagan, however, finds her inspiration from within. “It’s almost like there’s this secret cookie Instagram group. They will find you, and they will follow you. But I’ve been really careful. I don’t follow many of them back, because I don’t want to run the risk of wanting to copy a design. I always want to be original,” she reveals.
Reagan enjoys the creative freedom she’s allowed through unique, custom orders. Screenshots of these sets will often resurface in subsequent order requests, but she doesn’t mind, as long as she meets expectations.
From her kitchen Reagan letters her elegantly water-colored cookies with perfect execution, almost every time. Each sister cookie in a batch is nearly identical, but she keeps a couple of spares in case she’s not satisfied. What falls outside of her margin for error is likely imperceptible to her customers, but that doesn’t stop her from setting the bar high.
Her painstaking process takes all seven hours her first-grader is in school, and she makes it a point to put the paintbrush down when he’s home. With a baby girl on the way, her cookie business comes second to her top priority: her family. “I try to put it all out of sight by the time everyone’s home, so then we have the rest of the day to hang out together,” she says.
Ironically, eating cookies isn’t an activity the Thompson family often indulges in. “Before Colin and I got married, I’d pack up bags of all my leftover cookies for him to take back to Auburn because he loved them. But they’re just not as tempting when you can have one whenever you want,” she says, laughing.
The same goes for Reagan’s son, whose tastes have become more refined over the years. “Carter will eat one if it’s shaped like a car or something boy-ish—but other than that, he doesn’t really look at them,” she confesses.
In the rare moment when Reagan finds time to make an extra batch, she saves the gesture for those she knows will appreciate it most, including Carter’s classmates, her church congregation and her postal worker. “Last year was our first Christmas in this house, and I left some cookies for our mailwoman. She wrote the nicest note a week later saying, ‘You brightened my Christmas.’ When they’re not expecting it, it’s the best,” she recounts, glowing.
As much as Reagan enjoys surprising others, she’s not planning on throwing her customers through any loops just yet. For now, she’s content, and grateful, to be right where she is.
“I’m just thankful that this fell in my lap because I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says, softly smiling.
What Rea Bakes
- Birthday parties
- Bridal party gifts
- Corporate and church events