One of the most recognizable faces in Pittsburgh tastes pretty good, too.
Pittsburgh-based restaurant chain Eat'n Park has been baking Smiley cookies since 1986.
The smiley-faced cookies can be traced back to Warner's Bakery in Titusville, Crawford County, where a young boy couldn't resist the sugar cookies that would smile at him through the bakery window on his walk to and from school.
That boy, Jim Broadhurst, would stop at the bakery almost every day on his way home and buy one of those delicious treats. In fact, he bought so many that his friends called him "Cookie."
When Mr. Broadhurst, now chairman of Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, joined Eat'n Park Restaurants in 1973, the company was already a well-established family dining chain that began as a carhop restaurant in 1949. But he wanted to bring his favorite childhood treat to his customers.
So in 1986, with the help of Warner's Bakery, Eat'n Park started making Smiley cookies -- and a star was born.
Shortly after the cookie's introduction, Smiley was starring in commercials and showing up in posters and menus. It even inspired the slogan that Eat'n Park still uses today -- "The Place for Smiles."
In 1994, Smiley took to the skies for the first time as a hot air balloon and traveled to parades and festivals throughout the area.
But people wanted to see more of Smiley, so Eat'n Park created a life-size mascot. The Smiley mascot has his own vehicle, the Cookie Cruiser, and an entourage known as "Team Smiley" that travels with him from town to town. Smiley makes more than 150 appearances every year throughout the area.
In 2006, the Halloween-themed Smiley cookie made its big screen debut in R.L. Stine's "The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It," which was filmed in the Pittsburgh area.
Smiley cookies come in many different forms, including jack-o'-lanterns for Halloween, hearts for Valentine's Day and shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day. The most popular variety is the black and gold cookie.
The company bakes more than 11 million cookies per year and gives more than 1 million free cookies to children at their restaurants throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia every year.
Pittsburgh cookie enthusiasts are encouraged to submit their favorite cookie recipes as part of the Heinz History Center's Virtual Cookie Table Competition. Local bakers can submit their favorite cookie recipes, photos and stories behind the recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday to enter.
The five finalists will have their recipes judged by a panel of experts at the Hometown-Homegrown food expo at the History Center on June 23. Information: www.heinzhistorycenter.org.
First Published May 24, 2012 12:00 AM