Kristina Kim

Yalies with a weakness for sugar and equally sweet origin stories will soon have a York Street option to satisfy both.

Moon Rocks Gourmet Cookies, a local family business, will enter the Elm City the first week of March, offering an array of scoop-shaped cookies to students and businesses alike. The storefront is between Ashley’s Ice Cream and Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant, and will be the business’ second location after a larger storefront in Hamden.

“One of things we’re very excited about, obviously, is a relationship with the Yale students,” Marni Rae-Esposito, co-founder of Moon Rocks Gourmet Cookies said. “But also, the businesses in the area and the local clientele. Because we have such a wide variety of cookies … one of the things we love is the connections people have to these interesting flavors.”

The company’s Hamden location boasts a 4.5 star rating on Yelp, with 62 total reviews. Although the store will offer a similar selection and will be again run by its mother-daughter co-founders, Rae-Esposito and her mother, Cynthia Rae, New Haven’s outlet will vary in some ways — for one, the York Street property is not large enough to accommodate seating, so Yalies will likely not be able to use it as a study or social space.

The company was named one of New Haven County’s top-three dessert providers in CTNow’s Best of New Haven Readers Poll 2017. Moon Rocks was founded in 2014 by the mother-daughter duo, who sought — before their 75th and 50th birthdays — to bring a family recipe to a larger audience.

A half dozen Yalies interviewed in Jonathan Edwards College dining hall expressed enthusiasm about supporting a family-run business.

“I like the smaller and more niche stores,” Calvin Solomon ’21 said. “I also like supporting small businesses rather than big chains. There are a lot of great stores on York Street.”

Yale, which owns almost all the property on the commercial stretch of York Street, with the exception of Yorkside and Toad’s Place, initially contacted Rae-Esposito in search of an occupant for the storefront. The University determined that a cookie store would best serve the demands of students and residents looking for both a snack or a potential gift.

Corporate and individual gifts are a substantial part of Moon Rocks’ business. Moon Rocks has seen business throughout the country, as the company ships gift baskets anywhere in the United States. The company has 21 pre-designed gift baskets listed on its website and offers both individual customization and special corporate orders. In addition, customers can order cookies online, starting at a half-dozen a time, or purchase recurring cookie subscriptions.

While Moon Rocks are already accessible nationwide, Rae-Esposito hopes to build partnerships with local New Haven businesses, in addition to serving her in-store customer base, most of which she anticipates will be Yale students.

Some students are skeptical about the addition of the shop, however, given the number of sweet shops already on York Street.

“I really don’t think we need another sweet food place in that space,” Dustin Dunaway ’21, a staff reporter for the News, said. We have ice cream, crepes and donuts within the block.”

While Moon Rocks’ website emphasizes the importance of the unique texture of the store’s cookies, Rae-Esposito highlighted the variety of flavors and combinations, including classics like chocolate-chip, but also more experimental flavors such as honey-cardamom. Its attempt at broad appeal is demonstrated in the current banner in the window on York Street, which displays photos of its offerings, including several gluten-free and vegan choices.

“We are excited out of our minds,” Rae-Esposito said. “We are not a big company. We’re a small mom-and-pop — my mother and I started this company three years ago with $1,575. We are a small, local company, and for us to have an opportunity like this, our lives are on the line. We’re all in. For us, we’re not just opening another store.”

Moon Rocks’ Hamden address is 1830 Dixwell Ave.; the store opened in October 2015.

Angela Xiao |