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You’ll definitely find some menorah sugar cookies and dreidels, decked out in blue and white, alongside Christmas trees and stockings at The Cookie Jar Kitchen this holiday season. Owner Jennie Carens grew up with a Jewish mom and Christian dad, so her holiday traditions stretch across Hanukkah (always with a lot of latkes) and Christmas. Her tiny Newburyport shop is just a couple of blocks from Congregation Ahavas Achim in one direction, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the other, so she expects plenty of demand for both types of cookies during the first December in her new storefront.

“I’ve already ordered loads of blue and white sprinkles,” Carens says with a laugh, noting that some also will be destined to decorate toffee-chocolate-dipped matzoh, another family Hanukkah tradition. She gets excited thinking about the possible toppings: coconut, caramel, tiny M&M’s, chocolate chips… That variety is one of the things that Carens loves about her business. “There are so many things you can do with a cookie,” she says. “There are so many different flavors, and you can change them seasonally—especially the decorated ones.”

But in addition to decorated sugar cookies, she also enjoys incorporating seasonal flavors and local ingredients. The cider in her apple cider munchkins, little baked donut holes, comes from Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury—and veggies like zucchini for zucchini bread come from Colby Farm in Newbury. “We use local for everything we can,” Carens says.

The coffee beans come from local roaster Atomic Coffee Roasters in Salem, and there’s a freezer case selling pints of ice cream from Harbor Creamery in Newburyport, another in a supportive community of local business owners. “I think there’s a seat for everybody at the table,” she says, noting that she and Buttermilk Baking Company always share each other’s social media posts. “It’s nice to have that camaraderie with other businesses.”

As is the case so often these days, Carens found her passion during the Covid days. She was a wedding planner at Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, with a degree from Salem State University in business and hospitality, when the pandemic shut down her job. “I was baking in our one-bedroom apartment all day, with nothing else to do, and posting on Instagram and Facebook,” she says.

Friends started asking the self-taught baker to make things for them and encouraging her to do it professionally, so she started selling from a stand at Newburyport Farmers Market in 2021. “I worked in restaurants and hotels for about 10 years, and I really thought that was where I would stay, planning weddings and corporate events, but then it really shifted— really, really shifted,” Carens recalls.

When The Angry Donut outgrew its Winter Street space, she moved into the now-vacant kitchen and quit her job to throw herself into cookies full time. Currently the only baker, Carens arrives at the shop at about 4:30 a.m. every day but Monday, when she’s closed, to whip up everything from her classic chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookie sandwiches to seasonal treats like maple snickerdoodles and pumpkin cheesecake cookies.

She says the common denominator for all of her cookies is texture. “Something I really like about my cookies is they’re soft,” she explains. “I don’t love the crunch. If you’re doing a ginger snap or a sugar cookie, it’s a different story, but in my opinion, a chocolate chip cookie should be nice and crunchy on the edge and soft in the middle.” The jars along the top of her bakery case are filled with a delicious array of treats with a tender crumb, from classic oatmeal raisin to unusual flavors like s’mores and caramel cheesecake—a graham cracker cookie base with cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle.

For the holidays, Carens will be packing her case with holiday treats like red velvet sandwich cookies and gingerbread people, made with cloves and a touch of orange zest, and taking orders for cookie trays for all the holidays. “I think custom orders are so fun, because you can tailor to people’s needs.”

One of her favorite things currently are individual place-card cookies, with little decorations and each person’s name written on them—a sweet treat after a meal or a nice party favor, depending upon your restraint. But it’s the holidays. No need for restraint. Carens plans to make her store a cozy, welcoming neighborhood spot, with a menorah and holiday cards strung up on the walls. And there will be plenty of cookies to go around.

38 Washington St., Newburyport, 978-992-1273,