Our story starts with our co-founder Kat Graham and the influence of her grandmothers’ homemade cookies. Since childhood, baking has been a big part of Kat’s life. As a young child, Kat would often visit each of her grandmothers, both talented bakers. Some of her favorite memories of these visits would be seeing her grandparents baking delicious cookies for the family, the overwhelming smell filling the air and welcoming her into the house. “I would just be in awe of what they baked—cookies, bread, pies, rolls,” Kat said. “Watching them bake made a huge impression on me. In fact, both of my grandmothers’ pictures are hanging on the walls of both Barbee Cookies stores.” Kat inherited a love of baking from these family traditions and despite not knowing it at the time, these memories would make for the start of her story.
Co-Owners Kat Graham (left) and Kelli Stacy at the original location in 2015. Photo credit TulsaWorld.com
Starting a business was never something Kat had anticipated doing. She dedicated most of her time to teaching, spending time with her family, and contributing to her church. But on occasion, Kat would love to bake cookies for her friends—for church gatherings or game nights. Slowly, this hobby grew into something more. “My husband at the time and I realized that people really loved our cookies,” Kat said. “I baked them for years. And then in 2009, my soon-to-be business partner, Kelli Stacy, approached me about starting a business.”
In the early days of the bakery, Kat and Kelli worked out of a leased baking space in Tulsa while they were building out a small 1,000 square-foot bakery of their own. “I was trying to navigate the transition from being a teacher for 22 years to becoming a business owner. I had to learn how to train and manage a team,” Kat said. Kat made this professional switch all while experiencing changes to her personal life as well. “It was brutal. But with God’s grace, I got through it.”
Over the years, Kat would start baking with her daughter, Hallee, who would go on to bring new recipes to Barbee Cookies. Kat and Hallee would talk about new cookie recipes and bake some until they found the right one. “Our cinnamon roll cookies were Hallee’s idea,” Kat said. “Hallee experimented with the ingredients at home and then came up with the recipe. Now, it’s one of our best-sellers.”
Today, Barbee Cookies has dozens of cookies to choose from as well as decorated cookie options and customizable cookie cakes for order. “It’s taken a lot to grow the business,” Kat said. “And it certainly hasn’t been just by my efforts.” Kat believes it’s the people she’s worked with and the relationships she’s formed that has made all the difference in her business. “Kelli brought a business background to this whole endeavour, and Hallee has worked so hard coming up with new recipes since she was young—and still contributes to the business today,” Kat said.
“Over an eleven-year span being in this business, I have come to know a lot of special people,” Kat said. “Relatives from out of town, business people, former students of mine—they all come in, they bring their families, they say ‘hi,’ and that means so much to me. It really does.”
The Barbee Cookies motto is “Celebrate Life… It’s Delicious!” And we hope to not only continue offering great products at great prices, but to also share and celebrate them with you!