Working from the kitchen at Tabor Presbyterian Church, Leanne Fox makes carefully crafted cookies from recipes she’s been perfecting for years. It’s a dream she’s had forever, Fox said, and with a lot of organization, practice and perseverance, it has finally come true.
Why Tabor? “I found out my kitchen couldn’t pass inspection because I have cats,” she said. Fox is a member of the church, and she noticed there was never a cat around in that kitchen, and that it was perfectly laid out, sparkling clean and—best of all—had three ovens. She approached the church with an offer. She’d oversee the space, becoming an inspected commercial kitchen if they’d let her use it early mornings for the dozens of molasses, chocolate chip and other cookies she bakes on a busy day. She accomplished the small improvements in April and started Fox Hollow Baking Company.
In summer she often starts at 5, beating the sunrise, avoiding the heat of the day and returning home to get Henry, 10 and Beatrix, 8, who occupy themselves with books and music while she finishes up. Besides keeping her company, they serve as her tasters, and they have helped her perfect a couple of her recipes.
As she waited for the kitchen to be ready, she turned her attention to packaging. “I really didn’t want to use plastic, so I thought I’d probably be putting them in little boxes,” she said. She discovered that compostable bags were available, so she had them printed with the Fox Hollow logo. One of her larger customers, a Richmond realtor, needed them shipped, so she packs the bags tightly in a larger box using the Crozet Gazette as packing. “This emphasizes the small, home-town business aspect of Fox Hollow,” she said.
Marketing wasn’t hard, once people tasted her cookies. People appreciated the quality of her work and also wanted to support young entrepreneurial mothers. “I think most women understand what’s involved in working and taking care of children,” she said. She found herself in a dilemma that’s all too familiar to parents: “When I was at work, I worried about my children. Then when I was at home, I felt guilty about work.” She learned that several local mothers have started small businesses as a solution, and that there’s a hub for young entrepreneurs like her at the recently-opened Bluebird & Company. Her cookies are available there, at the Blue Ridge Bottle Shop and at Ragged Branch Distillery. “I use their whiskey in my grown-up chocolate chip cookies,” she said. “I wrote them for permission to link to them and they asked to stock my cookies in their tasting room.” (She notes the alcohol disappears during baking, so they’re fine for children.) But a major part of her business is individual orders, which she offers for pick-up outside the church and by mail and hand delivery.
Fox plans to expand a bit once Henry and Beatrix are back in school, but she’ll keep her emphasis on freshness. “When you order cookies, you’ll get them the day they’re baked, or shortly afterwards,” she said.
Leanne Fox has always had a reason for baking. When she was a child, she learned her molasses cookie recipe by her grandmother’s side. “She was known in her family for that recipe, but I found out she secretly hated baking. So, from the time I was 11, I was the molasses cookie baker.” Later, with a high-pressure job on Capitol Hill, she baked to relieve stress and also to sweeten things up in the office.
During the pandemic, she became determined to find a way to turn her talents into a business. “I realized that if there was a time to take a risk, this was it,” she said. “Everyone was trying to do hard, new things.”
Fox found she also has a knack for tweaking recipes for the best possible sweet bite. She might brown the butter first, or chill the dough overnight for better flavor, or put a few flakes of salt on top to sharpen the flavor. She’s serious about making every cookie perfect, not only in appearance but in texture and taste. She’ll have seasonally-appropriate cookies, including fall shortbreads, Halloween cookies that incorporate candy, macaroons for Rosh Hashanah and traditional Christmas cookies. She’d like to work with the wineries to match cookies to wine.
Find all the flavors, as well as special releases, ordering instructions and prices at foxhollowbaking.com.