Well-wish­ers and sweet tooths flock to the Santa Fe Cookie Co. on the 16th Street Mall to honor Deb­bie Kuehn, Den­ver’s beloved Cookie Lady, who died last month.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Libby Rainey

The smell of freshly baked cook­ies wafted through the 16th Street Mall on Mon­day as a crowd of well­wish­ers and sweet tooths flocked to the Santa Fe Cookie Co. to honor Deb­bie Kuehn, Den­ver’s beloved Cookie Lady, who died last month.

Peo­ple came by the dozens, alone and in groups, from their down­town of­fices and across town, to taste one last cookie and pay their re­spects to a woman who pro­vided warmth and com­fort to any and all who en­tered her store. Some brought flow­ers, oth­ers left notes, and many left the shop with arm­fuls of cook­ies for co-work­ers and fam­ily mem­bers.

“Den­ver will not be the same,” said one woman leav­ing the shop. “Where are we go­ing to get our cookie fix now?”

Kuehn died June 28 at the age of 57, leav­ing hun­dreds of cus­tomers bereft and shocked at her sud­den ab­sence from Repub­lic Plaza on the 16th Street Mall, where her three-for-adol­lar cook­ies were leg­endary. But the beloved baker left be­hind one last sweet treat for the com­mu­nity that adored her: a walk-in freezer stocked with cookie dough. Kuehn’s fam­ily re­opened the shop Mon­day to give away all the cook­ies that Deb­bie’s re­main­ing dough could of­fer.

Kuehn’s sis­ter, niece and nephew were hard at work as the event kicked off, bustling be­tween the freezer and ovens, bag­ging cookie af­ter cookie as the never-end­ing line of the Cookie Lady’s ad­mir­ers grew longer and longer.

“Share the cook­ies, share the love,” said Kuehn’s sis­ter, Bambi Forbes, as crowds filed in the door one-by-one to grab choco­late chip, peanut but­ter and oat­meal raisin cook­ies and more. “It’s what Deb­bie would have done.”

The line was out the door, up the stairs and down the street by the 10 a.m. start time, and by 10:05 the do­na­tion jugs for Kuehn’s fa­vorite char­i­ties were filled to the brim. By 10:30 a.m., the line reached all the way down the block.

“This is some­thing I looked for­ward to ev­ery time I was off work,” said Vic­to­ria Jer­ci­novic, who was among the first to ar­rive and picked

up a “space chip” cookie for her hus­band. “This was a sta­ple of our lives.”

Some rem­i­nisced on be­ing taken to the Cookie Lady their first day on a new job in down­town. Oth­ers re­called re­ly­ing on a cookie fix to sur­vive a par­tic­u­larly long day in the of­fice.

“It was kind of a joke in our of­fice, if you’re hav­ing a bad day go get some cook­ies,” Staci Berry said. “It’s go­ing to be a big hole in Repub­lic Plaza.”

Kuehn was end­lessly cu­ri­ous about the reg­u­lars who came to her shop, and re­mained com­mit­ted to serv­ing cook­ies to the com­mu­nity even as she grew ill. De­spite un­der­go­ing surgery to re­move a brain tu­mor, she re­opened in May, want­ing to re­turn to her cus­tomers and her work. Three weeks later, when the tu­mors came back, she closed shop again.

“I never knew what was go­ing on with her be­cause she was more in­ter­ested in your kids and your life,” said Lee Hal­lock, who dropped off a card for Kuehn from his daugh­ter. “She was a great artist, she was re­ally ded­i­cated to her craft. It’s amaz­ing the num­ber of peo­ple that knew about her and the busi­ness.”

Do­na­tions left for Kuehn will ben­e­fit Colorado Pub­lic Ra­dio, the Rocky Moun­tain Fe­line Res­cue and the Den­ver Po­lice De­part­ment’s Mounted Pa­trol.

Kuehn’s niece, Alexis McLean, who has worked for the com­pany on and off for the past 10 years, said the fam­ily is hop­ing to keep the cookie com­pany alive.

“It’s a fam­ily busi­ness,” McLean said. “When I was a lit­tle girl I would go down and visit her with my mom and put the fork pat­tern in the peanut but­ter cook­ies.”

By 2 p.m., McLean was hand­ing out the last of the cook­ies as peo­ple con­tin­ued to stream in and out. The fam­ily gave away thou­sands of cook­ies in a lit­tle over four hours. Chris Guer­rero, who works in the area, scored one of the last cook­ies: an oat­meal cran­berry.

“She was all of this,” Kuehn’s sis­ter Bambi said, ges­tur­ing around the shop. “It took three of us to­day to honor her and honor Den­ver.”

Joe Amon, The Den­ver Post

Alexis McLean bakes the cook­ies her aunt, Deb­bie Kuehn, served with love at the Santa Fe Cookie Co. at Repub­lic Plaza on the 16th Street Mall. Kuehn, 57, died last month. “Den­ver will not be the same,” said a woman leav­ing the store Mon­day.

Joe Amon, The Den­ver Post

Santa Fe Cookie Co. at­tracted a long line of ad­mir­ers Mon­day.

Joe Amon, The Den­ver Post

Cus­tomers got one last chance to taste Deb­bie Kuehn’s un­for­get­table cook­ies Mon­day, when her niece baked her recipes for the last time.

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