Sometimes dreams really do come true. Such is the case for Chantal Piet and Tako Vermeulen, winners of the country's Diversity Immigrant Visa and founders of The Stroop Club, a membership-based cookie club that’s as cheeky as it sounds. Thanks to a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, Austinites can now indulge in authentic stroopwafels without the flight to the Netherlands.
Last August, Tako and his partner Chantal packed three bags for their move from Amsterdam to Austin. Tucked into their luggage were halves of their 60-pound stroopwafel iron. They knew they wanted to open a stroopwafel business, after hearing from other Dutch friends that there was a deplorable lack of the staple sweet stateside. Why Austin? Chantal laughed: “Well, Austinites aren’t going to like this…but the people we knew in California told us to move here. And it does feel like home, though with friendlier people and 100 degree temperatures.”
Here’s the scoop on the stroop. Stroopwafels are a light, addictive Dutch cookie comprised of creamy stroop, which is a caramel-like syrup, sandwiched between two crispy thin waffles. Think vanilla, butter, cinnamon, crunchy, gooey, soft all together in one delightful syrup waffle (preferably melting over a hot beverage). In Holland, stroopwafels are a normal part of coffee or tea time, and people often have bags of them at their office desks. Street vendors sell larger format stroopwafels in Holland, served as a snack or a treat, sometimes with chocolate.
The Stroop Club made its Austin debut in 2015, and attracted droves to its booth at the Mueller Farmer’s Market. Chantal or Tako sat in the hot tent, offering samples of their goods, turning newbies into devotees. With that, a stroopwafel-star was born.
The duo formed relationships with local businesses to sell the treats including their first partner, Bouldin Creek Cafe. The cafe originally sold imported stroopwafels, but replaced those with Stroop Club. The cookie seekers can now find their goods in 26 different coffee shops, restaurants, and specialty markets around town.
After a particularly harrowing incident involving a stove fire in their new apartment last March, Chantal and Tako invested in professional appliances, hired staff and moved the operation to a commercial kitchen to keep up with demand.
Chantal chalks their success up to being local rather than some notable difference in product. There’s no deviation in the way the stroopwafels are made. “The recipe itself [over 200 years old] is specific,” she says, “and known only to professional bakers so the flavor and the style is totally consistent.” The club added its own touch, of course, even though “Dutch people hate” bacon additions. That doesn’t stop the pair from experimenting with flavors like goat cheese, thyme and walnut, or offering a stroopwafel twist on s’mores.
As for what’s next, they’re “carefully considering” their next move. Chantal says they may try to expand into other cities and “automate the process to increase the volume.” She emphasizes, “The most important part of being an entrepreneur is being flexible.” For now, customers can place a one-time online order, join the Stroop Club for regular deliveries or snatch them up around town. Specialty shoppers may want to check out their stroopwafel cheesecake, as well as gluten-free and chocolate ones. And of course, you can still visit the stand at Mueller for their most creative creations.
— Kelly Stocker