Ohio police sergeant trades badge for cookie sheet

By Tracy Turner
The Columbus Dispatch
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former Police Sgt. Craig Lee injured his hip in a 2005 Red, White & Boom melee involving gang members. At the time, he had no idea that the injury that ended his 24-year law-enforcement career would open the door to a second calling as a cookie maker.

Now, Lee is known as "the cookie cop," and his small-but-growing baking business is attracting customers who crave more healthful kinds of cookies.

Lee''s chocolate-chip and oatmeal cookies contain no trans fats or white flour and are made with dark chocolate, oil containing omega-3 fatty acids and Tahitian noni juice, a liquid dietary supplement.

Lee, who worked as a police officer, detective and sergeant for the Columbus Division of Police, was injured during a near-riot at the Downtown Fourth of July celebration and retired from the police force in 2006. He decided to go into the cookie business that same year.

He began baking cookies in 1993 as a hobby. He stumbled onto his chocolate-chip cookie recipe during a quest to make the "perfect cookie" for his wife. She loved the cookie recipe so much that Lee began to serve it to other family members and friends. He soon began catering events for free or a minimal charge to get his name and product out into the public.

Lee started his company in 2006 with an investment of $3,800. He said he has more than made back those funds, although he didn''t give specific revenue figures.

Lee later contracted with commercial bakery Delicacies by Sheri to mass produce the cookies, which are sold online at www.thecookiecop.com, at JaVa''s Cyber Espresso Bar in the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the Delicacies bakery.

Delicacies has had "very positive feedback from customers" about the cookies, said Sheri Deerhake, who owns the bakery on N. High Street in Clintonville. Customers are especially pleased to find out the cookie's healthful ingredients, she said.

The cookies were analyzed by NutriData, an independent food-nutrition service company in San Clemente, Calif., that offers nutrition analysis, product labeling and product development for the food industry. The chocolate-chip cookie contains 230 calories and 8 grams of fat, but no trans fats.

"Most people associate a healthier cookie with bad taste, but not these cookies," Deerhake said. "You'd never know their healthy status by taste because they taste like regular cookies.

"The demand is high for this type of baked good."

The cookies cost $1.75 each or $18 per dozen.

The goal, Lee said, is to get the cookies into hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. The company already has a contract with Aramark, which provides food service for the convention center, he said.

While Lee's second career isn't nearly as exciting or fast-paced as his first, it does give the family more peace of mind, said his wife of 19 years, Lisa Tyus-Lee. It means no more nervous nights worrying about her husband's safety.

It also means the Lees can spend more time together and with their two young children, she said. Tyus-Lee serves as company president, allowing her to work side by side with her husband for the first time.

"I'm excited that he has this new career for himself and that I can be a part of it," she said. "He puts his heart and soul into everything he does and that really shows through in the cookies."

Copyright 2007 The Columbus Dispatch
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