What do Beer Wall on Penn, Benchwarmers Coffee & Doughnuts and Taqueria Comālli all have in common?

Other than being located in West Reading — and all great places for bites and/or beverages — not a whole heck of a lot.

Except for Monster Cookies, that is.

The Berks County-made confections are taking the borough by storm, and they're not stopping there. Monster Cookies can even be ordered online (monstercookiesllc.com) and shipped right to your front door.

Since launching in August, orders for Monster Cookies have already been placed in 27 states.

"That kind of started the 'wow' factor," said Mike Sweitzer, aka Dr. Chefawesome.

Monster Cookies are Sweitzer's creation, along with his wife, Callan Burns, and 5-year-old daughter, Brody.

Sweitzer and Burns possess over two decades of combined experience in the culinary industry, but like so many other restaurant employees, they found themselves in and out of work last year due to COVID-19.

So when Dr. Chefawesome posted a photo of some oversized cookies he baked with his family to social media one day and people started asking if they were for sale, the answer quickly became yes.

"I posted the picture just for fun and got a multitude of people messaging me," Sweitzer said. "Family, friends, people in culinary world, people from high school — they were all like, 'Are you doing these?'

"Two days later, I went online and bought the LLC for Monster Cookies and started getting the paperwork in line."

What's so monstrous about the cookies?

The cookies look tasty, though when photographed alone, it can be difficult to get a true sense of their scale.

Rest assured, the depiction as Monster cookies is accurate — each weighing a half-pound and large enough to fill the palm of a grown man's hand.

Varieties include The Behemoth, Monster's flagship chocolate chip; Oatmeal Raisin the Dead; Cerberus, a triple chocolate cookie; Vegee T. Alien, a vegan chocolate chip; for a limited time only, Thicc Mint made with Oreo crumbles and dusted with powder sugar; and coming soon, a red velvet.

While ready to eat straight from the package, naturally, Monster Cookies are best warmed before eaten.

"Make sure you tell them people to heat them up," Sweitzer said — 13 seconds in the microwave, per the directions on the label, or stick them in the oven for an extra-gooey center.

Initially, the family was running the business out of its Wernersville home, but Monster Cookies has since moved bakery operations to Kim's Catering Collection in Cumru Township.

"We're still just trying to get our name out there," Sweitzer said.

A business and promoter for a new age

Self-promotion hasn't been an issue for Sweitzer, whose Dr. Chefawesome alter ego began as a joke, but has since morphed into an identity of sorts.

Sweitzer originally came up with the name before meeting Robert Irvine as a means to try to get the celebrity chef to remember him — even going so far as to have business cards printed with Dr. Chefawesome on them.

Now the head chef at Beer Wall, where Burns also works and Monster Cookie desserts have hit the menu, Dr. Chefawesome might be familiar to people who don't necessarily know Sweitzer.

"There's tons of personalities on Instagram, and people gravitate to a name," Sweitzer said. "Now, people who don't know me will see me and say, 'Hey, Chefawesome,' or 'Hey, Awesome.'"

It seems relevant because the plan at this time is not to open a Monster Cookies storefront.

Following a model implemented by many other businesses that have spawned during the coronavirus, the focus is on e-commerce and wholesale. Monster Cookies is also enjoying success at festivals and events, which could eventually lead Sweitzer to go the food truck route.

"At the very tail end of last year, we did the Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival in Kutztown," said Sweitzer, clearly recognizing a key demographic. "We made hundreds of cookies and sold out in four hours."

Monster Cookies is already lining up more events for 2021, such as the Hydra Studios' Second Sunday Arts Bazaar in Reading.

Family matters

Sweitzer and Burns have made careers of working in restaurants throughout Berks. The couple actually met at the former Good Eats in West Reading — now home to Nonno Alby's — about 10 years ago.

They've long thought about starting a side hustle or building something of their own, an opportunity the pandemic unexpectedly helped create.

"We noticed a lot of little, small things popping up everywhere, and many were people who worked in a larger place that fell the way of COVID," Sweitzer said. "We've wanted to do our own thing for years and could never really find the thing. This seemed like a nice venture to try."

Their story serves as yet another example of the way technology has empowered local startups like Monster Cookies to connect directly with customers.

"It's unbelievable how, since the beginning of COVID, something that separated so many people also brought so many people together with technology," Sweitzer said.

But Monster Cookies is really a story about a family having fun and sticking together through tough times — and stumbling upon a sweet surprise on the other side.

"It really is amazing," Sweitzer said. "Brody, our daughter, loves to come to the bakery, and Callan and I have been working together for 10 years, so it's really nothing new for us. A lot of couples might bump elbows, but it's second nature for us.

"We just constantly roll with the punches."

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