A cookie bouquet is on display Tuesday, July 9, 2024, at Cookies by Design, 6415 E. Riverside Blvd., Rockford. The bakery will close July 31 after 30 years in business. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
    By Kevin Haas
    Rock River Current
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    ROCKFORD — A bakery that has created custom-shaped and hand-decorated cookie bouquets to celebrate all of life’s special occasions will close at the end of the month after more than 30 years in business.

    Cookies by Design, 6415 E. Riverside Blvd., announced on Monday that it will end its three-decade run on July 31.

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    Owner Tasha Nafranowicz said the bakery continues to be successful, but she was ready to step away from the demanding and stressful nature of owning and operating a business. The time was right because the lease for Cookies by Design is up Aug. 31. Nafranowicz said she hoped to sell the company — as she did with her location in Brookfield, Wisconsin, two years ago — but wasn’t able to land a buyer.

    “I’ve been extremely blessed and I’ve poured my heart and soul into this place,” Nafranowicz told the Rock River Current.

    “I’m ready for a change. It’s very emotionally and physically demanding, and my body is hurting. It was a very, very, very hard decision. I just know in my heart it’s time.”

    Tasha Nafranowicz
    Tasha Nafranowicz started working at Cookies by Design at age 14 in 1994. She owned the company for 20 of its 30 years in business. (Photo provided by Cookies By Design)

    Nafranowicz started working for Cookies by Design in 1994 at age 14. A decade later she bought the franchise from previous owners Linda and Brian Addotta.

    The company operated for its first five years near the former Eagle grocery, now OrthoIllinois, before moving to its current location.

    “Overall it’s been very joyful and amazing and I’m truly blessed,” Nafranowicz said.

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    Cookies by Design was founded in 1983 by Gwen Willhite out of her home kitchen. She moved her sweet cookie bouquet business to a storefront in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shortly after. It began franchising in 1987, and the Rockford franchise opened seven years later. Although a franchise, the local shop is operated and funded independently with local ownership paying for its advertising and making its own contributions to the community through donations or other support.

    “I would like to express my gratitude to all our customers who have supported us through the 30 years,” Nafranowicz wrote in a post on Facebook. “Without you we would have never made it this far. I am extremely grateful for you. I am also thankful for all my hardworking employees for the last 20 years I have owned it.”

    Nafranowicz said the business has remained busy, even thriving through the coronavirus pandemic as people searched for ways to connect with family members and friends who they couldn’t see in person.

    “We were grateful to be able to stay open and give the community that kind of love when it was an awful time for most,” she said.

    A bouquet is on display on Tuesday, July 9, 2024, at Cookies by Design in Rockford. The shop will close July 31 after 30 years in business. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    The company employs six people in Rockford.

    Nafranowicz plans to hold some sidewalk sales and other special promotions in the lead-up to her last day in business.

    After closing, she plans to go back into real estate and perhaps have the chance to enjoy time off around holidays, which right now are often when she’s at her busiest.

    “Thank you to the Rockford community. Being here for 30 years is just unbelievable, to have a business that’s been sustained and we’re still so successful – that’s what’s really hard,” she said. “I just know when it’s time, it’s time.”

    Cookies by Design to close
    Cookies by Design, 6415 E. Riverside Blvd., will close July 31, 2024, after more than 30 years in business in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

    This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at khaas@rockrivercurrent.com or follow him on X at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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