Maurice Lenell Cookies Legacy Featured on Chicago Tonight
Video Transcript: Famous for its buttery assortment of sweet treats like Pinwheels and Butterscotch Stars, Maurice Lenell cookies have been beloved by Chicagoans for nearly 75 years. For cookie lovers, taking a bite out of a Maurice Lenell cookie is like tasting a childhood memory.
“It’s the fragrance,” says shopper Rita Anderson… “When you open the box, it has that certain fragrance. That reminds me of our childhood.”
For more than 70 years, Maurice Lenell cookies were manufactured and sold right here in Chicago, primarily out of their Harlem Avenue shop. “Lenell Cookies,” as it was first known, began as a bakery, founded in 1925 by Swedish brothers Hans and Gunnar Lenell. In 1937, the bakery changed its name to “Maurice Lenell.”
“His name was Erik Maurice Lenell and he was the son of Hans Lenell,” explains Jill Bocskay, who is Hans Lenell’s granddaughter.
“Hans started the company with his brother. But his son was actually the namesake of the company,” she says. “He chose that name because it was kind of an American sounding name – less European or Swedish, and he thought it would be easier for people in the United States.”
For nearly 50 years, the Lenell family built a name and a loyal following for specialties like Pinwheels, Raspberry Jelly Swirls and Almonettes.
“In Chicago, everyone still talks to me about it,” says Bocskay. “As a child, people would go there for every holiday to get lots of cookies for all their relatives, but also they would go there because you could see the cookies being made. It’s so much a part of people’s childhood.”
In 1985, the Lenell family decided to sell the Harlem Avenue bakery. The cookies were produced by another company for 22 years. But, when the Maurice Lenell Cooky Company, under the new company’s management, declared bankruptcy in 2007, many feared the historic confections would be lost forever.
But two years later, the newly formed Hearthside Foods, a Chicago-based baking company acquired the Maurice Lenell brand.
“Maurice Lenell is a top-of-mind brand, and it’s in the hearts of Chicagoans and it’s part of their past,” says Hearthside Vice President of Marketing, Roy Jasper.
Jasper was tasked with resurrecting Maurice Lenell.
“Our job was to figure out how to re-establish that same feeling and that same emotion in the brand, and carry it on,” he says.
Staying true to the Lenell tradition was imperative for the company’s CEO, Rich Scalise, a native Chicagoan who had fond memories of his childhood treat.
Today, Maurice Lenell cookies are produced in McComb, Ohio.