Shannon Hanchett — Norman native, OU graduate and mom of two — turned her passion for Oklahoma history and baking cookies into a delicious business that satisfies the Norman community in all its cookie needs.
Hanchett worked at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for about 11 years before she was diagnosed with lupus in 2018. She decided to leave her career in behavioral health and pursue her passions, creating Okie Baking Company in February 2018.
“I wanted something that would make people feel that nostalgia associated with cookies. Not too fancy, just something you would walk into your grandma’s house and get,” Hanchett said.
Hanchett said she began baking in her later high school years and while she pursued her undergraduate degree. It was just a hobby then, but her passion for baking grew after she had her first son in 2009.
Hanchett said her lifelong love for homestyle cookies and the emotion they can invoke is the reason she decided to specialize in homestyle cookies.
Okie Baking Company began in Hanchett’s home, then moved to a shared space with Yellow Dog Coffee Company in November 2019. After a year of being with Yellow Dog Coffee Company, Hanchett felt it was time to expand her business into a space of her own.
Hanchett then began talks with property owner Joey M. Wishnuck, who owns the historic cottage on Main Street, and in January 2020, Norman City Council approved the renovation plans for the cottage, Hanchett said.
Okie Baking Company is scheduled to move into the “new” building on the corner of Webster and Main Street in June 2021, Hanchett said.
According to a Facebook post, Hanchett envisions a bakery with 1930s-1950s style and with historical photos lining the walls. She said she wants to honor every business that made her cookie cottage its home before her.
As an Oklahoma native, Hanchett said she has always had a passion for Oklahoma history. Through her job at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, she traveled to all 77 counties of Oklahoma and researched what the small towns she visited were known for.
Hanchett said she uses that history to create her treats, and she’s motivated to incite interest in small Oklahoma towns with her business.
“From the time I started the company, that has always been a part of it — tying the stories back to the places or people who inspired the cookies,” Hanchett said.
Okie Baking Company sells almost 50 varieties of homestyle cookies. Hanchett said the most popular is the Stilwell strawberry cake cookie, but her two favorites are the Collinsville coffee-glazed oatmeal and the Ruth Ann’s chocolate chip.
Former coworker and friend Jennifer Dell said Hanchett’s passions have been evident in everything she does. Dell and Hanchett worked together at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for 8 years. Dell is an instructor and undergraduate coordinator for the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work.
“I’ve been able to see her passion for things that are important to her. Her passion for people and her passion for Oklahoma really shine through in so many of the different adventures that I’ve seen her take on over the last decade,” Dell said.
Dell affectionately refers to Hanchett as the “Cookie Queen” and said Hanchett was supplying her friends and coworkers with cookies long before it was her business.
“She has a huge passion for people, and I think her love for baking is an extension of that,” Dell said. “Through her baked goods, she really gets to bring a smile to people’s face.”
Hanchett’s caring nature extends past her friends and into her community. Okie Baking Company has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Okahoma, Acts of Kindness and other organizations, and has supported local small bakeries and other businesses since its creation, according to the Okie Baking Company Facebook page.
“She’s great when it comes to really supporting her community,” Dell said. “She cares about where she lives, and I think that makes a difference.”
Okie Baking Company grew during the COVID-19 pandemic. She constructed “Make Your Own Cookie” kits for holidays and special events. Hanchett includes all the ingredients made from scratch and themed with the upcoming season so families can enjoy staying home and safe.
“What I do is essentially comfort food. … People were staying home a lot, and they were stressed out,” Hanchett said. “Especially last year when we had the stay-at-home order, (the cookie kits) were pretty popular because it was something that was fun and fairly inexpensive that families could do with their children.”
Community member Paige Gallow said her need for cookies is what led to her friendship with Hanchett.
Gallow said as she continued returning for more cookies, her friendship with Hanchett grew.
“She just has that kind of personality where she can talk to people and make them feel welcome,” Gallow said, “Even if she only spends a short amount of time with them, they don’t feel like they’ve been slighted.”
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanchett does her best to cater to all her customers’ needs. For Gallow’s birthday this year, Hanchett personally delivered cookies and specially made pineapple upside-down cupcakes to Gallow’s home.
Until renovations on the cookie cottage are complete, Okie Baking Company will return to being a home bakery in preparation for the big move, but Hanchett said she’s looking forward to moving into the almost-100-year-old cottage in June.
“It’s always been the plan to get my own location. … I want to encourage people to visit me in the cookie cottage when it opens in June!”