My Cookie Dealer, a bakery that delivers and ships orders placed through Instagram, has fared well in the time of socially distant dining.
Juan Morel, a 38-year-old professional bodybuilder, has several nicknames. One is “Diesel,” for his resemblance to the similarly smooth-headed and muscled actor Vin. Another, “King of New York,” he earned for winning his second New York Pro competition last May.
“And now,” Mr. Morel said recently over FaceTime from his Long Island home, “the ‘Cookie Monster.’”
Since June 2019, he and his wife, Karen, have been running My Cookie Dealer, an online-only bakery that operates primarily via Instagram. While many food purveyors have struggled in recent months to make their businesses comply with a socially distanced reality, My Cookie Dealer has always been a delivery-only business. That model has now proved itself crisis-proof.
One recent shipment included some 3,000 orders for more than 35,000 cookies, and weighed nearly nine tons, Mrs. Morel said. All of the cookies were ordered within a 14-minute window.
My Cookie Dealer’s cookies are huge. Each mound of dough is weighed by hand to ensure its half-pound size and then cooked and packaged at the Morels’ 2,400-square-foot bakery in Nesconset, N.Y. The flavors change so regularly that the Morels are not sure exactly how many types of cookies they have sold.
Their cookies are available for purchase only twice each week, typically at noon local time on Wednesday and Saturday, in “drops” reminiscent of the limited-edition sneaker releases that have become popular in recent years. (There are also occasional, smaller “secret stash” sales.)
Each cookie costs $5 to $6; orders must be made in quantities of 10 or 20. Tens of thousands of cookies usually sell out within nine to 15 minutes, the Morels said.
“People that get the cookies love it,” Mrs. Morel, 40, said. “The people that didn’t get the cookies will swear at you, send you hate mail, send you hate-DMs, use profanity.” She added: “You’re being so nasty and using swear words over the fact that you couldn’t get a cookie?”
In 2018 Mrs. Morel, who had worked in retail management before the birth of their daughter, decided to get back into a dormant hobby: baking. Mr. Morel started bringing his wife’s cookies to a gym near their home in Deer Park to share with his workout buddies.
He also began posting photos of Mrs. Morel’s confections on his Instagram account, where he regularly chronicles his quest to ingest the 20,000 daily calories needed to build and maintain his 5-foot-10-and-a-half, 270-pound physique. (On his cheat days, Mr. Morel will often forgo all other food in favor of some two-dozen half-pound cookies.)
Those posts prompted hundreds of messages from followers looking to buy the goodies themselves. Mr. Morel suggested his wife begin selling her wares. She was unsure.
“She was like, ‘Oh, nobody wants them,’” Mr. Morel said. “I was like, ‘They’re asking! What do you mean?’ I just knew she was doing something special.”
The couple soon sold the cookies in the parking lot after bodybuilding competitions, from the trunk of their S.U.V. Each cookie came in a small plastic baggy. A winking air of illicitness took hold and helped inspire the company’s name.
“It was just a catchy thing,” Mrs. Morel said. The couple now refers to My Cookie Dealer’s drops as “moving weight.” They call their delivery drivers “pushers.”
The company’s first online sales were made in the frenzied comments section below Instagram posts, where the first to post were the first served and money was exchanged over Venmo.
Mrs. Morel was working out of a friend’s commercial bakery in Westbury during off-hours, squeezing in her baking around frequent travel for her husband’s national and international competitions. Her irregular availability begot the “drop” method of sales, because Mrs. Morel could promise customers only the limited quantity she had the time and means to make.
“It’s not marketing,” Mrs. Morel said. “Literally, I had to do it this way.”
Now Mrs. Morel leads a staff of nearly 30 out of their work space in Nesconset, which the Morels bought and renovated last December. (Mr. Morel helps with packaging and handles various logistics.)
The bakery closed briefly in March as New York shut down in response to the coronavirus outbreak, at which point the company’s typical drop contained around a thousand orders. When it reopened two weeks later, scarcity had once again helped fuel an even greater demand.
“People think that we’re scheming,” Mrs. Morel said. “We were just trying to flatten the curve.”
The Morels said they have also had to contend with copycat sellers who have begun aping their methods and, in some cases, even My Cookie Dealer’s distinctive names. Mrs. Morel blocks impostor accounts when alerted to them.
Competition does not appear to be slowing the company’s growth. The Morels recently bought a second 2,400-square-foot space in the same industrial strip as their bakery, to better accommodate their shipping operations. In June they bought a four-car fleet of Mercedes GLEs for their pushers to use when making local deliveries on Long Island. Mrs. Morel said they also have started an apparel line.
And sales of their cookies continue to grow.
“Every time we’ve made bigger batches or bigger drops, we always sell out,” said Mr. Morel, who is hoping to return to competitive bodybuilding in December, at the Mr. Olympia event in Las Vegas. “I guess we still don’t know the potential.”