They say never to go into business with friends but if you ask lifelong pals Johnny Ciarlante and Christian Williams why they decided to open a cookie franchise in Rittenhouse Square together they have an answer ready to go.
“People say that, don’t go into business with friends,” Williams said. “But that’s why we went into business with our best friend.”
Ciarlante and Williams have been friends since they were young kids playing soccer for Southampton Soccer Association and soccer has been a bond they’ve shared ever since despite being a year apart in school and rarely playing on the same team. After Southampton they played on different teams at Vereinigung Erzgebirge and went on to play for different clubs through their teenage years.
Williams went from VE to play at FC Delco for Mike Gorni and Philadelphia SC for Joe Disalvo and was part of the Montgomery United Celtic team that won the U19 NCS State Cup in 2016 the summer after his freshman year at Florida Atlantic. He later transferred to Lafayette to finish his college career.
Ciarlante went from VE to play at Yardley Makefield Soccer with coach John Greaves and four years at La Salle University, playing the first two years under long-time head coach and former ODP coach Pat Farrell.
Christian and Johnny reunited as teammates on the pitch a couple years ago with VE’s adult Majors team, where they earned the nickname Bash Brothers by coach and club director of coaching Rob Oldfield.
Christian Williams: State Cup Champion MonU team in 2016 and playing for Philadelphia SC Coppa
“We know we're not the best players on the field, but we might have one of the biggest impacts with our work ethic,” Williams said. “We always try hard and definitely don’t shy away from a header.”
Ciarlante, who works by day as a business consultant, made a name for himself in high school and college for his fearlessness going into tackles and aerial challenges.
“I have 50 stitches on my face between high school and college,” said Ciarlante, who has played as a center back and holding midfielder through much of his career.
Williams, who works as a real estate underwriter, was a midfielder who switched to center back in college and is known for being a hard-nosed player willing to scrap and fight to win the ball. The Bash Brothers nickname has carried over into their business as the name of their holding company, which they started to launch their Blueprint Cookies franchise, the first for the company founded in 2019 outside Florida.
Johnny Ciarlante: As a player at VE and Southampton and baking cookies at home
Along with a third partner - family friend Joe Lees, owner of WeLLCraft Construction Company - they opened their first Blueprint Cookies shop in Rittenhouse Square in November.
The timeline from idea to reality was a quick one that started when Christian and Johnny took a trip they were only at the time jokingly calling a business trip to Florida. While in Florida they went to a birthday party on the beach and were introduced to Blueprint Cookies CEO Adam August through Christian’s sister Kelsey, who works at a gym owned by Blueprint co-owner Nick Hicks. They left the party talking about the possibility of franchising a Blueprint back home in Philadelphia.
“I think my comment (to Adam) was I’m passionate about cookies or something like that,” Ciarlante said. “And Christian and I just kind of looked at each other and were like ‘we’ll bring it to Philly.’”
Six months later, the best friends were cutting the ribbon on the first Blueprint Cookies in Philadelphia. “It's really cool and really special,” Williams said. “It's still so new to us, but it's almost hard to just sit back and take it all in because every day is just a new adventure and so much is going on.”
Photos from Blueprint Cookies Ribbon-Cutting (Left to Right: Joe Lees, Johnny Ciarlante and Christian Williams). Photo Credits: Pulse Entertainment.
While juggling day jobs with franchising has made playing soccer more of a challenge - their grand opening fell on the same mid-November day their teammates qualified for the U.S. Open Cup - both Ciarlante and Williams have found lessons they learned on the pitch coming in handy in their new roles. Both have worn the captain’s armband on the field through their careers and now they are leading a team off the field too.
“C and I are both confident in our presence whether that’s on the field or in the business,” Ciarlante said. “We know we need to make sure that everyone around us is on the same page, and that's why we've hired a great team ready to grow with us.”
Williams and Ciarlante have plans to open additional Philadelphia shops and to keep playing soccer as long as they can, side by side, as they have since they were kids falling in love with the sport that has been ever-present in their shared history.
“We're looking forward to what the future holds for us,” Ciarlante said. “And whether that’s more cookies or other things... soccer will always tie us back together.”
Blueprint Cookies is located at 268 S 20th Street in Philadelphia. Visit www.blueprintcookie.com for more information.