Cafe Society

Mrs. Fields hauls its cookies to Colorado

Mrs. Fields Famous Brands, which owns both the Mrs. Fields cookie chain and TCBY Yogurt, has relocated its corporate headquarters from Salt Lake City to Broomfield. Mrs. Fields -- and yes, there really is a Mrs. (Debbie) Fields, who opened her first chocolate chip cookie store in 1977 -- has a five-year lease on office space at 8001 Arista Place. The reason for the move, according to a letter that chief executive Tom Casey sent the Salt Lake Tribune, is that the company will now be in an area "that has helped support the headquarters of several casual and quick-service restaurants such as Mrs. Fields and TCBY. Among them is Noodles & Co., which has its headquarters in Broomfield."

Colorado is definitely a fertile breeding ground for fast-cazh chains, but Mrs. Fields Famous Brands hasn't been on a growth spurt lately. Although the company has close to a thousand franchised locations in the U.S. and overseas, it's weathered some severe financial downturns in recent years. (By then, Debbie Fields had not only divested herself of Mr. Fields, but had sold her company to private investors in 1993.)

In 2006 the company restructured, resulting in layoffs and the sale of three of its holdings: Pretzel Time and Pretzelmaker in 2007, and Great American Cookies in 2008. In August 2008 the company filed for Chapter 11 protection, and in December 2011 Mrs Fields again came close to bankruptcy, avoiding it only by approving a transfer of control from the company to its creditors.

That's the way the cookie sometimes crumbles.

But the current CEO appears optimistic about this latest move. "Denver fulfills that with a business environment that is rich in franchising, brand development, and fast-casual and QSR (quick-service restaurant) support infrastructure," he told the Tribune. "Many casual/quick-service franchise companies were launched from and are based in Denver, making it an ideal environment for idea sharing."

Here are a few ideas, free of charge: I have loved TCBY since I was a kid, and the cheesecake-flavored fro-yo and Ruby Red Grapefruit Sorbet are magically delicious. We already have four TCBYs here in Colorado -- three at Denver International Airport, and one in Greenwood Village -- and I would not mind seeing a few more, especially in the sweltering summer months.

But TCBY faces some frosty competition for expansion here, since we have a plethora of froyo stores already, like Golden Spoon, Nella's, Menchie's, Pinkberry, Nova Yogurt, Sweet Dream, Go-Go Yogurt, Boom Yogurt Bar, Yogurt Time and Yogurt Guru, to name a few.

As for Mrs. Fields cookies, Colorado currently has two stores: one at FlatIron Crossing in Broomfield and the other at the Park Meadows Center in Lone Tree.

I adore Mrs. Fields's mini sugar-butter cookies with the baby M&Ms, but since I'm not a mall person, I rarely have the opportunity to buy them. And the retail-brand cookies are nowhere close to being as good as the fresh ones. Colorado is also a notably health-oriented state, and while gourmet cookies might be tasty, they are also not particularly healthy -- so mad props to Mrs Fields if it can create and mass-produce a nutritious, low-fat/low-cal chocolate chip cookie that doesn't taste like ass.

That would go over well not just in Colorado, but across the country.

After inventing that magic cookie, Mrs. Fields should open some stores outside of malls, and meanwhile, company officials should strongly consider teaming up with some of this state's fast-cazh chains to provide desserts. I would love the option of snagging a few Mrs. Fields cookies on a visit to someplace like Noodles & Company or Smashburger.

So welcome to Colorado, Mrs. Fields. Let the chips fall where they may.