Eileen Spitalny and David Kravetz have been collaborating on business ventures since elementary school in central Phoenix.
“In third grade, we did animation projects,” Eileen said, laughing. “I think David still has a copy of one movie where we
made a clay head that turned into a snake and then ate itself.” For the past two decades, the pair’s product has been far
more palatable. Fairytale Brownies’ team, menu and community involvement have grown along with its co-founders.
But as the company celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, the goal is the same: to spread joy, provide unparalleled customer care
and simplify the gift-giving process by providing the world’s best gourmet chocolate brownies. “Let’s face it: We’re
starting with an inherent advantage because we’re dealing with brownies,” David said. “People are usually happy when they
receive them, happy when they eat them and happy when they order them because they know they’re passing along some joy.”
Since meeting on their kindergarten playground, David and Eileen have been close friends with polar-opposite personalities
– Eileen is the creative extrovert; David is the process-oriented partner. She can see the bigger picture or alternate ways
to do things,” David said. “I’m more like: ‘What’s the formula?’”
They first concocted the idea of building a business together at Phoenix Central High School, but life delayed the decision. David went off to Stanford; Eileen to USC, and the
pair were later employed by Proctor and Gamble and Univision, respectively. Tired of answering to someone else and eager to
build something with their own hands and minds, they used David’s mom’s recipe to start Fairytale Brownies in a small
Scottsdale catering kitchen in 1992. Early on, that meant working eight-hour night shifts after their full-time day jobs.
“I remember just sitting on this low wall in sandals, waiting forever for the brownies to cool so we could wrap them up in
foil and then hunt for space in the freezer,” Eileen said. “It was so inefficient but it was so exciting.”
Neither partner took a salary for the first three years of the business and their parents’ were less than thrilled with their change in
professional direction. But those weren’t the only early challenges. David got married in 1993 and he and his wife, Mandy,
had their first child, Lily, in 1994. “We came home from the hospital and a few days later I left for a three-day street
festival to sell and promote our brownies -- kind of leaving her all alone with the baby,” David said. “It was rough on
family life.” Buoyed by positive early feedback at street fairs, local gourmet grocers that agreed to carry the brownies
and the ad agencies in town that Eileen dealt with on a regular basis, the duo drove forward with their dream and
understanding families in tow. “All the indicators seemed correct,” said Eileen, whose husband, Mike, was the company’s
first baker. “People loved them so, at some point, we figured it would take off.”
But some early lessons helped alter the course of the company and lay the framework for the current incarnation. “At the beginning, we thought children would be a
target market because kids love brownies,” David said. “We were making brownies with sprinkles, with jimmies, with sugar.
We came to find out later that children don’t care whether it’s a gourmet brownie or a Ding Dong. It’s just: ‘Give me the
treat!’” As they shifted targets, they discovered that many of their happy customers at those street fairs lived outside
Arizona and wanted the brownies shipped to them.
So Fairytale Brownies moved away from the wholesale model and started the
current mail-order model that has blossomed into a $10-million-a-year business. There have been milestones along the way.
In 2001, the company partnered with KaBOOM!, a non-profit dedicated to helping build playgrounds for disadvantaged kids
across America. The company has rolled out new flavors and products like its decadent Fairytale Truffles, its classic
Fairytale Cookies and its latest invention, Fairytale Bars, which honestly leave you in a culinary state of euphoria.
Twenty years later, Fairytale Brownies are still hand-baked in the company’s cozy yet ultra-modern kitchen. Every brownie,
cookie, truffle and bar is hand-packed with care in attractive and ergonomically sensible packaging – the product of
Eileen’s appreciation of art and David’s focus on the end user experience. All shipments come with the company’s
unconditional guarantee and are backed by personalized customer care that, to the surprise of callers, sometimes includes
David on the other end of the phone. “By nature, they’re going to get the best service because it’s my business,” he said.
“Plus, it’s fun to hear the feedback.” But Eileen and David are just as committed to the in-house experience as they are to
the product and customer experience. “We really try to create an empowered work place,” David said. “We have an open-book
policy where our financials are posted in the break room so we can let everybody know what’s going on.”
The company also has what it calls a ‘$100-empowerment policy’ where any employee can spend up to $100 of company money, no questions asked,
to solve a customer’s problem. David and Eileen have fielded multiple offers to buy the company but the personal ties to
Fairytale Brownies, their lifelong friendship and the desire to expand the company’s reach and community footprint have
kept the suitors at bay. The company recently launched an initiative to capture more corporate clients while expanding
In their perfect world, everyone has tasted at least one Fairytale Brownie. Which is why Eileen still
brings Fairytale Brownies everywhere she goes. “It’s gotten to the point of ridiculousness but then, if I don’t have them
when someone asks, there’s this feeling of guilt,” she said. Eileen recently met well-known businessman, George Maloof, on
a recent trip to Las Vegas. Of course, she gave him brownies. “Food is such a connector for people and there’s nothing
stuffy about a brownie,” she said. “They’re so All-American; so communal. I can gather people so quickly and simply over
a brownie and I like spreading the brownie word.”