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updated: 12/30/2011 2:40 PM

Matt's Cookies in Wheeling makes homemade delights

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  • Aurelia Arellano adds a cookie to each package that sets off an alarm because it weighs less than one pound. An extra cookie is added to make sure each package is at least one pound.

       Aurelia Arellano adds a cookie to each package that sets off an alarm because it weighs less than one pound. An extra cookie is added to make sure each package is at least one pound.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Gerardo Ramirez mixes cookie dough in one of two giant mixers at Matt's Cookies in Wheeling.

       Gerardo Ramirez mixes cookie dough in one of two giant mixers at Matt's Cookies in Wheeling.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Matt's Cookies in Wheeling has 22 employees to make their cookies and 25 to distribute them to area stores.

       Matt's Cookies in Wheeling has 22 employees to make their cookies and 25 to distribute them to area stores.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Matt's Cookies owner Matt Pierce said all of the cookies are made just like people make them at home and so they all end up in different sizes and shapes.

       Matt's Cookies owner Matt Pierce said all of the cookies are made just like people make them at home and so they all end up in different sizes and shapes.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Chocolate chip cookies are cooled with fans before being packaged. Matt Pierce said no two cookies are the same shape so they have to be packaged by hand.

       Chocolate chip cookies are cooled with fans before being packaged. Matt Pierce said no two cookies are the same shape so they have to be packaged by hand.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • A machine wraps some of the 25,000-pounds of cookies packaged each day, including cookies under different brand names shown on labels here.

       A machine wraps some of the 25,000-pounds of cookies packaged each day, including cookies under different brand names shown on labels here.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

Walking into Matt's Cookie factory in Wheeling is like stepping through a hot cookie oven time-machine and ending up at your mom's kitchen where the cookies are made from scratch.

The factory employees make a batch every hour, by hand.

"Every cookie is a different shape and size. We use real chocolate chips and real peanut butter," said co-owner Matt Pierce, whose father, Grant, founded Cookie Specialties Inc. in 1980, and named the cookies after his oldest son, Matt.

"We bake the cookies just like you would at home, but on much larger scale," said Pierce.

The company controls their prices as well as freshness by having their drivers deliver directly to more than 500 stores. With 22 employees using two 150-foot ovens and 25 drivers to make the deliveries, Matt's Cookies are available around the suburbs, in Chicago and even Wisconsin. There are 25,000 pounds of soft, chewy cookies baked each day.

"We use large fans to cool the cookies before packaging," Pierce said. "The high-grade chocolate can't be cooled in the refrigerator because the ingredients would separate."

Near the end of the cookie packaging line, each package passes over a scale. If any package weighs less than one pound, an alarm alerts an employee to add an extra cookie to that package.

Pierce prides himself on making cookies that bend but don't break and are made from all natural ingredients, like the cranberry walnut, chocolate chip pecan, and peanut butter, along with four types of fruit bars.

Matt's uses more than 700,000 pounds of real chocolate each year and 500 pounds of peanut butter per batch to make the homemade cookies.

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