Updated Nov. 18 at 9:30 a.m.

Holli Everson probably has a cookie you haven’t eaten before, at least not quite like the ones she bakes.

After opening A Salty Little Sweet Shop on Quesnel Street in Taos in early July, she’s been making cookies glazed in maple, soft sugar cookies stippled with fresh blueberries and s’mores cookies, which look and taste exactly like they sound. There are carrot oatmeal cookies made with local carrots and saucer-sized snickerdoodles baked with salted caramel and apples, which she picks off a tree that grows outside her store.

Her shop is as unusual as the cookies are. Located across the courtyard from La Cueva Cafe and nestled between a couple of studio apartments and a psychic’s parlor, Taoseños can find Everson’s new confection shop in the corner. She’s keenly aware, and even enthusiastic about the fact that she’s not running the only sweets shop around. She explains that she’s looking for a niche, not a competition.

“I’ve got cookies dialed in. If you want chocolate, go to Chokola. If you want a great sourdough bread, go to Wild Leaven. I love telling people about local businesses,” Everson said this week, standing behind a counter in her shop, which smells like cinnamon, coffee and molasses. Her dog, Zen, was laying on a bed on the floor in the narrow foyer. “I have a whole table of business cards of the local places that I shop at because I feel like as a new business owner and watching Taos grow the way it is, I want to be a part of building our community.”

Baking roots

Everson grew up in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, and is part Norwegian. She said her grandmother, a Norwegian immigrant, taught her baking fundamentals when she was a child by showing her how to make Lefse, a traditional Norwegian flatbread made from heavy cream, all purpose flour, white sugar and potatoes. Everson said she’s thinking about baking some in her shop this winter.

Until this year, however, Everson had only ever baked for fun.

Before moving to Taos in March 2019, she was living in Silverthorne in Summit County, Colorado, where she worked waiting tables and tending the bar. The story of how she arrived in Taos is a common one: She came here on a whim and found that things just clicked after that.

“I was very lucky. I was very welcomed here. I just moved here on a fluke. I wanted to stay in a mountain town, but I wanted a little bit more of a mild climate. It was winter for nine months up there, so it just got old. So I just decided that I was going to have a do-over and so I just got myself a job and a place to live and moved here and found my way around and made some friends and now I’ve started my own business.”

Community support

Everson is proud of the fact that she is the sole owner of her business, but she also credits many people with helping her get started with her cookie shop.

When she first moved to Taos, she took a job at Medley in El Prado and became fast friends with staff and the couple that runs it, Wilks and Colleen Medley, who also work as the restaurant’s head chef and dessert chef, respectively. She said the Medleys helped advise her on starting up her restaurant, which Everson said was especially helpful given the added challenges the pandemic has created for small businesses.

“They were just incredibly supportive and just were like, ‘Any questions you have, let us know.’ They were really successful and just really smart business-savvy folks. So they were really supportive and they still are. They come to get cookies.”

She said Taos Main Street helped her spread the word about her new business and Michael Ninnamon of Michael’s Kitchen helped her get some equipment.

After firming up her business concept, Everson began leasing the space on Quesnel Street with the help of an investor, Mark McGrew, in early January 2021. But like with a lot of small businesses, her initial opening date kept getting pushed while she remodeled and built out the small kitchen where she now bakes.

“It was like black and blue and orange with a green ceiling. There was a wall right here,” she said, gesturing at the air between the counter and where customers now stand to place orders. “It was just gross. So I tore down the wall and repainted and primed and built the kitchen. It literally was a blank canvas and I did little splashes of color.”

While she prepped for her opening in July, she also worked part-time at Taos Village Farm, located behind Taos Academy. She said working with fresh vegetables inspired her to incorporate some of the produce into her cookies.

“I was eating the food that I was growing and that really got me inspired and enlightened enough to really start this project,” she said. “When you’re eating what you’re growing, it does something to your body that’s pretty amazing.”

Baking while the sun rises

Between the hours of 6 and 8:30 a.m., before she opens for business, Everson is hard at work in her kitchen, which is outfitted with a three compartment sink, a large wooden table, racks of spice, commercial-grade oven and a cooling rack, where freshly baked cookies sit wrapped in baking paper.

She says those morning hours, when she’s focused on her craft, are now her favorite part of the day.

“When I’m baking I really think about what I’m doing and I really try to put positive joy and love into what I’m doing,” she said. “It’s really important, and I think people feel that when they’re eating it. I like to take my mind off of everything else going on around me, just being present in what I’m doing.”

A Salty Little Sweet Shop is located at 105B Quesnel Street. Hours are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The shop is closed on Sundays.

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