From 2009 to 2011, Cravin’ Cookies…and More! dominated the Weekly Alibi’s “Best Cookie in ‘Burque” contest before losing the title last year. Owner Barb Hively came out swinging this year with her best apricot raisin walnut oatmeal cookie and brought that title home once again this year, as well as winning “Best Cookie” in the Best of the City Annual Reader survey in Albuquerque The Magazine.

Hively prepares and bakes each sweet treat sold in her North Valley bakery by hand. She said she starts with 10 base cookie recipes, many of which are passed down from her grandma, and then experiments as she goes.

“I’m always making up new things, if I’m a little bored with making something I’ll look around at what’s seasonal and I’ll come up with new cookies,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll get bombarded with zucchini from people so I’ll do a carrot zucchini raisin oatmeal walnut spice.”

Cravin’ Cookies began not in a small bakery but in a kitchen with a basket of goodies 13 years ago. Hively, whose family “grew up in the kitchen,” said she has worked for herself most of her adult life — selling educational toys while her three children grew up, years before opening her business.

“I always wanted to open up my own dessert shop or bakery, so that always stayed in the back of my mind and one day it seemed like the right transition in life to give it a shot,” Hively said. “I started off selling cookies in a basket to anybody who wanted to buy a cookie and it took off.”

While Hively went on to sell many business orders, her first eight years went by without a physical address. She said her frustrations in finding a location for her business ended after a conversation at a World Wellness Center. Hively said her personal interest in Reiki, a spiritual practice based on the belief that energy can be passed through the palms and on to others, drove her to speak to a few practitioners at the location.

“At that point I was about to give up because I couldn’t find a shop and I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not supposed to do this,’” she said. “They were the ones who said ‘You need to keep doing this because there’s healing with your hands, and this is your way of touching the world.’”

Hively went on to find a location less than a year later in June 2008.

“I’ve had some people tell me that the healing really goes into the cookies and that it transforms their lives in whatever way they need it,” she said.

Since Cravin’ Cookies physically opened, Hively said she has made an effort to feature and sell work from local entrepreneurs. Local artists were featured once a month for the first few years her location was open. The bakery’s small dining area would turn into a gallery, the store’s outside front lined with goods.

“I just think they have a talent and a gift to share as well — it feels like a part of a community that’s telling and sharing and coming together for everyone,” she said. “I’m tired of everything shipped in from China, so there’s really awesome people that come in.”

Hively said the store has artist features three to four times a year, while stocking the store with goods year round. Across from the glass case that holds Hively’s handmade cookies and pies sit three giant barrels of locally roasted coffee beans. Works from photographers can be found along the store’s walls, while carved rolling pins and books from local authors can be found in bins and displays. Elizabeth Withers, a retiree and one of the store’s few volunteers, sells her handmade aprons while greeting customers.

Glassical Delights owner Jo Fowler has displayed and sold her jewelry at Cravin’ Cookies for the past three years. Fowler said the bakery offers great opportunities for other local entrepreneurs.

“I think it’s a win-win situation because more people see my work and it’s a win if somebody likes it and it’s a win for Barb because it gets people coming into her store,” Fowler said.

Rita Ryan, who owns Rita Ryan Pottery, has sold platters and bowls for the past three years at the bakery. Ryan said the relationship between Hively and small entrepreneurs helps keep small businesses alive.

“In today where everything’s Wal-mart and Target, you can get imports from China and Molatia, all these different places … your local artists are being stuck out and sucked dry by giant corporations,” she said. “To have a really friendly shop where people can go and eat a cookie and have a cup of coffee locally and from a local artist, it keeps the craftsmanship going.”