Wisemiller’s Deli, a local staple in the Georgetown community, has started a “cookies by mail” service to maintain their business during the COVID-19 pandemic and reach students and customers across the country. They’ve also begun a local delivery service, bringing Wisemiller’s sandwiches right to the doors of students and residents in the area for the first time.
Gina and Christine Vogel, the sisters and former Georgetown graduates working to keep the student-loved Wisemiller’s afloat, have been exploring new ways to combat the losses brought on by the pandemic and drop in on-campus customers. They have turned to deliveries, party platters as an alternative to catering, and the new cookie business.
Wisemiller’s launched the cookies by mail service on Dec. 15 and has seen a positive response from the community. “A few people suggested that we send Chicken Madness by mail but we thought that was more problematic, so the cookies were a good place to start,” Christine, the vice president of business development who heads the cookie delivery program, said. Each box includes 16 cookies, individually wrapped, and there are five assortments available for order and shipment across the United States.
“For anybody who went to Georgetown or has a Hoya in their family or knows about Georgetown, they’ve probably had these cookies and just really are excited by receiving them,” Christine said. The sisters focus on holidays with their deliveries and are looking forward to Valentine’s Day and Saint Patrick’s Day in the coming months. “Any kind of celebration is a cause to get cookies,” Christine said. “Or no reason at all, you just need some cookies.”
According to Gina and Christine, a new website will be up soon with an online order form. Until then, there are other ways for people to order by mail: calling, texting “Cookies” to the business’ “Cookie Order Line” or email. Customers receive an order form to fill out and send back via text, email, or fax.
Cookie assortments available from Wisemiller’s include: the “Best Sellers Assortment” with a combination of Oreo, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and rainbow cookies; the “Top Two,” which is half Oreo and half chocolate chip; the “All Oreos” assortment; the “There’s No Place Like Home” assortment with eight Oreo cookies and four each of chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin; and the “All In” selection, which is a full box of any cookie.
Along with the cookie service, Wisemiller’s now offers a local delivery service of their deli menu within roughly a three-mile radius of their Georgetown location. The delivery is free if a customer calls into the store and orders it themselves instead of going through a third-party vendor like Doordash.
Like most small businesses in 2020, Wisemiller’s was hit hard by the pandemic as well as the long term relocation of most of their biggest customers — Georgetown students. “Of course it hit us because everyone went home for spring break and no one came back, and so suddenly we had the same bills and the same rent and the same costs but we suddenly just didn’t have the income,” Gina said of the pandemic’s challenges. “It’s been very, very difficult and there are times we were worried about making it but we’re going along, we’re doing the best we can.”
According to Christine, business was down by as much as 75 percent when the COVID-19 crisis began. In response, Gina set up a GoFundMe last April to support Wisemiller’s until they were able to get a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to aid them. According to Gina, the fundraising took off with the help of Father Raymond Kemp and Eddie Ferrar, a former employee of Gina’s, who helped spread the word that the deli was in need of assistance. Since the GoFundMe was launched, Wisemiller’s has received over $35,000 in donations.
“We are so grateful to the Georgetown students and alumni and our Georgetown friends and administrators for donating to our GoFundMe page which really, in our darkest time, helped us a lot,” Gina said.
The help went to supporting and maintaining the deli’s staff, some of whom can’t afford to stay home and not work during the pandemic. “We’re always pursuing the next way we can increase our business and maintain because we support 14 families,” Gina said. “Anybody who wants to work, we want them to have a job, and as long as we’re alive they’ll be taken care of. They’re our family.”
Christine and Gina hope that the cookies by mail program takes off even further so they can keep Wisemiller’s a part of the Georgetown community. Christine explained that leaving positive reviews for their sandwiches and cookies on Yelp also helps, and Gina added that the GoFundMe page is still up and running. With more students returning to campus this semester, progress with COVID-19 vaccines, and possible developments for on-campus programming over the summer, the sisters are hoping to bring back their business.
“Our big hope is that if a lot of students come back in the fall, it’ll be like boom, back to something that’s close to what we had before,” Christine said.
In the meantime, Gina and Christine are determined to weather the economic downturn, support their staff, and maintain their place in the Georgetown community. “We want to be there for your kids and your kid’s kids,” Gina said. “So we’re doing the best we can, holding on by our fingertips.”
Wisemiller’s “Cookie Order Line” phone number is 202-921-2512 and the ordering email is firstname.lastname@example.org.