Something’s cooking in a tiny studio apartment on Windward Avenue, where the scent of sugary goodness and the light thud of hip-hop emanate from the kitchen. Depending on the time of day, passersby might spot two surfers reclining atop the roof of their home business known as “the Stoop.”
Brothers Kyle and Wesley Stuart moved to Los Angeles from Ludington, Michigan, a few years ago with different career paths: Kyle is a video editor/photographer, while Wes worked as a personal trainer and sous chef. But they also had a side gig. Back in Michigan, they had placed second in a start-up business competition and used the state’s Cottage Food Law to help their dad, an organic grain farmer, launch a small family business selling baked goods at a local farmers market. They wanted to use the family’s organic hard red winter wheat as a base for cookies they'd sell in California, too.
A little over a year ago, Kyle moved into the apartment on Windward, and before long buddies from Michigan appeared with tools in hand to help him build out its rickety porch. Now the roughly 100-square-foot outdoor space serves as half surfboard and bike storage, half storefront. (The cookies are made and stored in Kyle’s tiny kitchen and carried out for purchase.) Never mind that the apartment didn’t come with an oven — the brothers bought a countertop model that they’ve come to understand over time, swearing that “each batch is better than the next.” The Stoop opened for business on Christmas Day in 2015.
Now they bake cookies every night, surf every morning and sell their edible wares from early afternoon to late evenings, with business hours announced daily on their Instagram account. The slot carved into their counter for tips is marked “surfboard fund.”
“The first thing everyone asks is, ‘Are they pot cookies?’ No, there’s not pot in them,” says Kyle, who also points out that their operation is legit thanks to California’s relatively new Cottage Food Operation Law. The law allows individuals to prepare and/or package for retail sale certain nonhazardous foods made in home kitchens.
The Stoop’s offerings are simple. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal maple raisin and coconut cranberry varieties go for $3 each or two for $5. The brothers call the coconut cranberry their “catalyst cookie,” since it’s a vegan-ized version of their father’s recipe — one they didn’t exactly appreciate as kids. “Our dad was a bit of a maverick on the organic thing 30 years ago,” Wesley says. “Everyone in our town called him a health nut. Growing up, we ate this cookie a lot but then scarfed Oreos at friends’ houses. We kind of rebelled, but now we’ve grown into our dad’s ideas and put our own twist on them.”
The brothers see Los Angeles as a test market for expansion of Stuart Family Organics back home in Michigan. The plan is to get a processing plant and certified-organic kitchen up and running there, eventually selling organic pancake mixes and pizza dough all over the country.
The Stoop just started delivering by bicycle (to the Venice area only, obviously) and take larger orders by phone or through their website.
Lately the brothers have had some help from Ulysse Lec, a French 21-year-old pastry chef who skated by a few weeks ago and became part of the team. Though he’d never cooked vegan before, he says the collaboration has taught him a lot — and he might even bring some of the Stoop back to France. “French people like what Americans do, so they might want to try it,” he shrugs.
The Stoop, 239 Windward Ave., Venice; (310) 980-9267, @thestoopca.
Shawna Kenney is a local writer and snack connoisseur.