Like any local cookie lover, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Santa Fe Cookie Company. To know this quirky, 32-year-old biz is to love it: Founder and former sole employee Debbie Kuehn, aka “The Cookie Lady,” set up her shop in 1985 in a compact, subterranean space below the 16th Street Mall; ever since, customers have helped themselves to white paper sacks of cookies, dropping their money into a plastic jug, honor-system style.

Debbie Kuehn, aka “The Cookie Lady.”
—Photo by Sarah Boyum

So, I was devastated when Kuehn passed away in late June after a battle with cancer. Not only was she a fixture in the downtown community, but her cookie recipes, honed over years of manning the ovens, were perfect—crisp edges, chewy centers, never too sweet.

Joy returned in early October, when word went around that Alexis McLean—Kuehn’s niece—was reviving the Santa Fe Cookie Company in the very same location. “She [Kuehn] had created such a great thing. I felt it was right to keep it going,” McLean says.

McLean is honoring her aunt’s legacy by keeping her recipes: “She perfected them over 32 years and I’m not changing a thing,” McLean says. While Kuehn only had the ingredients for each flavor written down, McLean spent summers past learning her aunt’s techniques. “There’s a whole process and tricks for each cookie,” says McLearn. Rest assured: The chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin versions all taste as good as you remember.

One thing McLean has changed? Prices. Rather than $1 for three cookies, McLean has raised it to $2—still a crazy bargain for such quality baked goods. She’s also adding new flavors to the roster—peanut butter chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons—and featuring weekly specialty items from Kuehn’s extensive recipe book. Expect scones, coffee cakes, and muffins, as well as Kaladi Brothers drip coffee once McLean clears some plumbing hurdles.

“I’m so exited to have Santa Fe back open, and everyone has been so supportive,” McLean says. I’m pretty darn excited myself.

Bonus: Looking for the perfect holiday dessert? Call ahead to order one of McLean’s specialty chocolate chip cookie cakes layered with mocha mascarpone frosting. The cake serves around 10 people and costs $20.

303 16th St., Suite 12A, 303-623-0919

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.