Reinventing Main Street, One Scoop Of Cookie Dough At A Time

Chocolate chips cookies are possibly the world’s most perfect dessert, particularly when eaten pulled fresh from an oven.  

Sure, cake has its fans, ice cream its devotees and pie its partisans, but the chocolate chip cookie is one of the few things that can be brought out at the end of the meal that will please pretty much everyone.  

And yet, anyone who has ever home-baked a chocolate chip cookie knows that while the outcome is possibly the best dessert in the world, the baked cookie itself is actually the second-most delicious byproduct of making chocolate chip cookies. 

The most delicious is the cookie dough itself, of course.  

But raw cookie dough is rarely given the chance to shine as its own dessert. It does make the occasional appearance at the dessert table — usually ensconced in some vanilla ice cream — but it would be surprising to be served a scoop of unbaked cookie dough at the average dinner party.

After all, raw dough usually contains raw eggs, and raw eggs contain salmonella bacteria, which means there are many who simply won’t eat it.

But West Kentucky University (WKU) junior Bailey Dahlquist was not satisfied living in a world in which all dough had to be baked to be servable, and he found a way to fix that problem. As it turns out, there are a variety of proprietary methods to make cookie dough without eggs — and without changing the taste.    

Armed with that knowledge, and an unshakable confidence that cookie dough had a future on main street, Dahlquist made the jump from studying entrepreneurship to living it. He opened Raw, the first raw cookie dough shop in the city of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Chasing An Inspiration

Dahlquist is quick to admit he was not the first to think of selling raw cookie dough as a commercial product. He first experienced it in his youth in the city of Chicago at specialty shops.

But Chicago, a city of nearly 3 million people, unsurprisingly has somewhat more variety in its dessert offerings than Bowling Green, Kentucky — a city of approximately 65,000.   

Just because something isn’t in a place doesn’t mean it can’t be, though, and Dahlquist believed the love of eating raw cookie dough was a thing all Americans share, no matter where they are. Looking around his college town’s beautiful but underutilized downtown area, he realized he actually had a fantastic venue to test his theory.

Early collaborator Chloe Hohlbein was somewhat less sure than her partner when he first pitched the idea, but he was pretty far along the business path by the time he made that pitch.

“I never thought it would come together, but little did I know he had already done the research, called a realtor, set up tours to look at places,” Hohlbein told the WKU Herald. “It came together almost too easy. It was one thing after another. It all just fell into place. That’s what made us know that it needed to happen.”

And happen it did. Raw opened last week, and did so to a line that stretched out the door and around the block. Though local reports indicate some of the insane enthusiasm has since died down a bit, customers two weeks in are still waiting in a line out the door to get their own custom scoop of cookie dough to go.

What’s Next

Dahlquist is happy his store is a success so far, but what he really wants is to see his shop be the first of many in the downtown area that connects the community at large to the university about two blocks away.

He noted that the two blocks that separate Main Street from the campus can be an entire world away for a surprisingly large number of local residents. While most of the Bowling Green community “touches” WKU, in some ways the parts that don’t really don’t.

According to Dahlquist, there is just a separate bubble that contains the greater community surrounding the university, and what the community needs is for those two ecosystems to interact — and transact — a lot more.

“Bowling Green is very intertwined with WKU, but the people that you can’t reach, that’s who we’re also going after,” he explained.

To that end, the shop will give some portion of its proceeds each month to a charitable organization. It will also work with local schools to make sure honor roll students stop in for a free scoop of dough.  

The goal today is not so much to reinvent retail as it is to reinvent main street on a Main Street that needs reinvention.

“I would love to see all of these businesses around here either being shops, clothing stores, restaurants or bars,” he said. “This is such a cool little area. We’re two blocks away from campus, and what we want to be part of is bringing the area to life for the people and creating a better-blended community.”

Plus, he’s only a junior in college, and he still has time to take on the rest of retail.