Andrew Gonzalez, the 27-year-old owner of Miami's wildly popular Night Owl Cookies, has seen more success in the last seven years than most do in a lifetime. Since dropping out of college in 2012 to pursue baking, Gonzalez has amassed numerous awards, from a spot on Forbes' annual "30 Under 30" list to growing Night Owl to Postmates' most-ordered business in Florida. Night Owl was also recently named Best Cookie by New Times.
In 2017 alone, Night Owl churned out more than 750,000 cookies, averaging about 2,000 per day and ringing up more than $1.5 million in sales. In the years since launching, Gonzalez has built a multimillion-dollar business by selling cookies in dozens of flavors starting at $2.50 each. Most nights, lines of eager customers hungry for Ave Marias — made with guava dough, white chocolate chips, and cream cheese frosting — swirl around his Calle Ocho storefront. Other popular cookie orders include s'mores, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and the Dirty Diana, in which chocolate dough is stuffed with Nutella. And within the next year, Gonzalez plans to open a Night Owl location in Wynwood.
Throughout Night Owl's success, Gonzalez made a deliberate decision to stay out of the political arena, he says. But that all changed earlier this month after the young entrepreneur became the victim of an incident during a Pride event in New Orleans.
Gonzalez posted the following on Instagram:
"Walking back home after my first Pride parade last night, we decided to take a side street to save some time," Gonzalez wrote. "A black car drove by and started shooting frozen paintballs before peeling out. The pain was minimal and the actual bruise is gonna fade away, but the bruise it’ll leave on my brain/ego will stay much longer. I’ve always had the mindset that we live in such a progressive time and have been naive to the fact that attacks in the LGBTQ community happen far too often. This could’ve easily have been an actual gun or gotten my eye had I not turned around after the first shots. Although attacks like this may deter some from coming out of the closet or from being open in public... they are EXACTLY why pride is needed. Nobody is born with hate and if we can learn to hate then we can learn to LOVE... and we must use OUR voices to be some of this generations greatest teachers."
"When we first started Night Owl, my business partner and I decided to stay away from talking about my sexuality," Gonzalez explains. "But this is who I am, and I want to use my platform with Night Owl to spread awareness. After that night in New Orleans, I feel the need to come out publicly to help give a voice and bring awareness in the community: You don't have to hide to be successful."
Gonzalez says he was bullied growing up because of the way he spoke and acted, which contributed to his hesitation to speak out publicly about his sexuality. "That carried on to when I first started my business," he says. "I was still hesitant to speak out in case I offended anyone and was scared to affect sales. Nobody should ever feel the way I did growing up. I think by sharing my story, those going through these struggles could see that things get better and it’s important to be your authentic self."
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As Gonzalez explores ways to use Night Owl to help raise awareness for LGBTQ rights, he says his first act will be to donate 100 percent of proceeds from his Fruity Pebbles cookie for one week to the Trevor Project, a national 24-hour, toll-free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth. Starting today, June 24 through Sunday, June 30, all proceeds from the sale of the cookies will benefit the organization. The cookies sell for $2.75 each.
"I wish growing up I had something like that," he says. "There are a lot of suicides in the LGBTQ community and a lot of them are kids. The Trevor Project is such an incredible organization that gives the proper resources to those who may not have the proper support.
"Night Owl will always be a safe space for those in the LGBTQ community," Gonzalez continues. "We will always be as inclusive as possible."
Night Owl Cookies. 10534 SW Eighth St., Miami; 786-360-5011; nightowlcookieco.com.