Up to Something Yummy at Max's Cookie Co
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Flavor FullFebruary 2015
By Candace Feely
Photos: Peter Amend
When Max Lupercio was 13 years old, he made his first cookie using the ingredients he had on hand: sugar, water and Crisco. It was the beginning of a delicious hobby, one that would lead him to where he is today: the owner of Max’s Cookie Company, Inc. at Bothof’s Bakery in downtown Visalia.
That first cookie came not only out of a desire to eat something sweet, but also to offer something special to the people he loved. Though a young teenager, Lupercio recognized how hard his mother was working to provide a good life for her family. He began doing whatever he could to help: cutting lawns, cooking meals and, of course, baking treats.
A less-than-stocked pantry was no inhibition for Lupercio; in fact, the limited ingredients may have encouraged his creativity. “It’s crazy because you just use what you have,” he says. “That started me thinking, ‘OK, how can I add to this? How can I add flavor?’ That’s when I started developing.”
Perhaps those early years gave him the persistence needed to make his most prized creation: a chocolate chip cookie that took three years to develop. “I am hugely proud of it,” Lupercio says, “because when people taste it, they say, ‘This is the best I’ve ever had.’”
Although baking has been a long-time passion for Lupercio, the move from hobby to career was big. “It’s hard going into business for yourself because you never think people are going to pay for a product that you’re making,” he says. “You have to get over that initial hill of confidence.”
Get over that hill he did, and with the encouragement of friends, Lupercio began looking for a bakery of his own. In the spring of 2013, he approached the Mosleys, owners of Bothof’s Bakery, a Visalia bakery for more than 50 years. A month later, they were ready to sell.
There were only two small details. First, there would be a soft opening, meaning the doors of the bakery would never close. One day it would belong to the Mosleys; the next day it would belong to Lupercio. Second, the sale would take place quickly.
Within two weeks, in fact.
Lupercio was in. He officially bought Bothof’s Bakery on April 1, 2013, and on April 2, he opened the doors to his 3,600-square-foot facility complete with a proof room the size of a bedroom and a rotisserie oven capable of baking 950 cookies at a time.
In the sale, Lupercio also acquired the original recipes of Bothof’s, as well as those of Bof’s and Copley’s, old Visalia bakeries that Bothof’s had purchased years before. Those recipes were so treasured that Lupercio actually had to have a secret ingredient decoded. With the help of the Bothof family, other bakers and his supplier, Lupercio was able to bring back early recipes, like the breadsticks one customer recalled taking to the movies as a girl.
The bakery is a blend of old and new, Bothof’s classics and Max’s favorites, with a crucial common thread running through each recipe: everything is made from scratch. Unlike grocery store bakeries that “bake off” their product, a scratch bakery does everything in house from start to finish, from simple thumbprint cookies to elaborate buttercream wedding cakes.
This is how Lupercio likes it. He won’t even let his cookie dough touch a machine. “By doing it all by hand you don’t overmix, so you taste the salt, you taste the sugars, you taste the vanilla,” he explains. “When you take a bite, it almost tingles different parts of your tongue.”
And so Lupercio’s day begins at 4 am. When he’s not baking or interacting with customers, he’s probably on a delivery run or conferencing with a client or attending a meeting. Max the Baker is one of many roles Lupercio has in the community. Through mentors in his own life, he has learned the importance of working hard, developing character and walking in faith—and he brings these elements into everything he does.
He hopes to pass these lessons on to others. “You never really know what you’re going to do. You can just plan, and if you develop those character traits, your ethics, those things matter, no matter what you do.”
Although Lupercio’s cookie recipe has changed from the early sugar and Crisco version, one thing has remained: baking is always about people. Baking is always about creating a memorable experience for someone.
Whether it’s friends enjoying a lemon bar together or newlyweds sharing the first bite of their wedding cake, the taste of something special lingers long after the last crumb.
“We understand that this is a memory,” Lupercio says. “We’re building memories, and we want positive memories to be built.”
There’s no better way to do that than by one delicious bite at a time.
Max’s Cookie Company, Inc. @ Bothof’s Bakery
221 E. Main Street, Visalia • (559) 734-5498
Hours: Monday – Saturday 7 am – 5 pm; Closed Sundays
facebook.com/bothofsbakery and instagram @maxscookiecompany