When Rontez Vaughan bakes cookies, he sprinkles every batch with an ingredient you can’t find in any grocery store.
“I do this to honor my brother’s memory,” says Vaughan, the owner of My Brother’s Cookies, a fledgling business that specializes in fresh-baked cookies. “He inspired me to do this — that’s why I call it My Brother’s Cookies.”
Vaughan, 36, launched My Brother’s Cookies five months ago to help him overcome the grief and depression he had been experiencing since August 2018, when his younger brother, Trenez Valentine, was shot to death at a house in southwest High Point.
“I was just super-depressed — I never knew depression like this until what happened to my brother,” Vaughan says. “Every day, I would think about him, and I would think about getting that phone call when he was murdered. I wasn’t taking care of my responsibilities like I should. I wanted to just give up and run away.”
One day when he was feeling particularly sad, Vaughan’s daughter, 5-year-old Avariella, asked her daddy to bake her some cookies.
“I didn’t feel like it, but I did it anyway,” he says. “They were just store-bought cookies, but they changed her whole mood. The smell of cookies filled the whole house, and she was just so happy and bouncing around the house.”
That got Vaughan thinking about how cookies made him happy, too — about how cookies seem to make everybody happy.
“I can bake cookies,” he thought. “What if I started a cookie business? What if I opened my own bakery?”
Vaughan didn’t have much experience making fresh-baked cookies from scratch. In fact, he hadn’t made cookies from scratch since a 10th-grade home economics class.
“Those cookies came out perfect, so I knew I could do it,” he says. “But 20 years had passed since then.”
Nonetheless, he decided to give it a try, and he was determined to honor his slain brother in the process.
“I kept thinking about being my brother’s keeper,” Vaughan recalls. “I remembered the story in the newspaper — a front-page story about the murder — and that just hurt my feelings even more. It talked about him like he was just another victim — he was just a statistic. And I remember thinking I can’t let that be the last memory of my brother.”
Vaughan began experimenting with recipes, tweaking them until his cookies were just the way he wanted them, and then he officially launched My Brother’s Cookies. His trial run was selling cookies at a Juneteenth event in Greensboro, and it was a success.
“We were just walking around selling cookies, and we went home with empty baskets,” he says. “I knew then that this was doable. If it’s a good cookie, people are going to buy it.”
Vaughan currently has more than a dozen varieties of cookies listed on his company’s website, ranging from Chocolate Chip, Cookies and Cream, Ultimate Peanut Butter and Lemon to his two newest flavors, S’mores and Sweet Potato.
In addition to the website, the cookies can be purchased at Kimyon’s Beauty Supply in Archdale.
The company also sells apparel and other items featuring the company logo, such as T-shirts, caps, hoodies, mugs and water bottles.
Vaughan’s ultimate goal is to open a brick-and-mortar bakery or at least have a food truck for My Brother’s Cookies, a goal he would like to realize within a year or so. In the meantime, he’s got his hands full baking cookies, selling cookies and promoting them.
“My goal is to put the pedal to the metal, to go as hard as I can and get these cookies in as many hands as I can,” he says. “And if I reach the point to where I can get a building, there’s no stopping me then. I can’t let this fail, because it’s for my brother.”