Lighting a fire with Firehouse Cookies

By Carol Lawson-Swezey, Reporter

Within moments of returning home from her first full time job, Jannine Fitzgerald has dinner cooking on the stove and the oven warmed up to begin her second shift.

Jannine, who works full time for the City of Clovis’ Information Technology department, also puts in long hours at her Firehouse Cookies and Pastries catering business. Currently she bakes and delivers daily to two local eateries, Old Town’s Kuppa Joy and the Patio Café in Fig Garden, as well as catering for special events like weddings and parties.

She acquired the Kuppa Joy account by first introducing owner Zack Follett to her maple bacon oatmeal cookies, which she calls “breakfast in a cookie,” and then “systematically, little by little, finding pastries which matched his unique offerings,” Jannine said. Kuppa Joy is opening up a second location at Echo and Weldon avenues in the Fresno High area in early 2016 where Jannine will also deliver her treats.

Jannine started the catering business about three years ago as a tax write-off incentive and she has since baked up a storm. Hers was the first Fresno County business to qualify for the “Cottage Food” license, which allows cooks to operate food businesses out of home kitchens. Firehouse Cookies also had a booth at the Friday Night Clovis Farmer’s Market for a season.

Jannine and her husband, Chad, have been married for 18 years and have two children, Connor, 15, and Aidan, 12. Chad, the Life Safety Enforcement Manager for the Clovis Fire Department, serves as shopper, deliveryman and chief bottle washer for the business.

The road to home business success is neither smooth nor restful. Jannine often starts her day at 3:30 a.m. so she can bake items like cinnamon rolls, croissants and cronuts (a marriage of croissants and donuts) for that morning’s delivery. She also burns the midnight oil making her often requested specialties like gluten-free peanut butter cookies, maple bacon cookies, crostatas (mini fruit pies) and chocolate chip expresso scones, one of her 15 scone options.

Jannine, who has no formal culinary training, recalls assisting in the family kitchen from the time she could stand on a stool. That same stool helped her kids reach the counter to help when they were younger. The entire Fitzgerald clan pitches in when needed with the help of two ovens, a 49-square-foot commercial refrigerator and a large chest freezer.

A weekly shopping list can include up to 30 dozen eggs, two gallons of whipping cream, nine pounds of cream cheese, 40 pounds butter, 70 pounds flour, 30 pounds of granulated sugar, 40 pounds of brown sugar and 50 pounds of powdered sugar.

Jannine says she has to turn down some of the daily requests she gets for her services during peak periods like the holidays. She has catered desserts from a small intimate dinner party to fundraising events to a wedding of 350 guests.

“Anything a client can dream up, I can do,” she said.

Most of Jannine’s recipes are in her head, a product of continual fine tuning and experimentation. She enlists the help of the Clovis fire department staff for “research and development.”

“Their overall favorite is the gluten-free peanut butter cookies,” Jannine said. “If I show up to a fire department event without them, I’m in trouble.”

The cookies are so popular that at the recent Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation fundraiser, sponsored by the fire department, a plate of three dozen of those cookies went for a bid of $175 at the silent auction.

The Fitzgeralds admit their lives have been hectic and they haven’t had a week off together in three years, but feel they are building a foundation for themselves and for their children.  For Jannine, whose background is graphic design and art, baking is a creative outlet.

“I enjoy that people are so surprised that something that is so simple can be so good,” she said.

“The business has been so successful because Jannine’s recipes are so balanced and don’t smack you in the face,” Chad said. “It tastes like something you wouldn’t get somewhere else.”

To contact Jannine Fitzgerald –559-696-0094; website is and Facebook is FireHouse Cookies and Pastries.