Please & Thank You seeks $50K, apology after alleged counterfeit cookies served at Derby

When she opened her cookie shop more than a decade ago, Brooke Vaughn never expected to build a Kentucky-based cookie kingdom lauded as one of the best of its kind.

She also never expected to be talking to a lawyer about counterfeited cookies.

Those conversations began during the week of the 150th Kentucky Derby. Vaughn did not attend the milestone event at Churchill Downs but became aware that her business, Please & Thank You, appeared to have a presence there.

Cookies labeled as "Please & Thank You Peanut Butter Cream Pies" were available at Churchill Downs during the week of the 150th Kentucky Derby.
Cookies labeled as "Please & Thank You Peanut Butter Cream Pies" were available at Churchill Downs during the week of the 150th Kentucky Derby.

She received congratulatory texts from friends in attendance and notifications on social media regarding treats on display in one of the suites of the brand-new paddock area.

Photos showed stacks of cookies with a small sign reading, “Please & Thank You Peanut Butter Cream Pies.”

But there was a problem with this picture, Vaughn told the Courier Journal.

“Wait,” Vaughn said she remembers thinking at the time. “Those aren’t my cookies.”

The business owner tried to put the pieces together, as she continued to see similar photos over three days ahead of the Derby. She also received comments about how the cookies didn’t look or taste like Please & Thank You products. While the brand is most known for chocolate chip cookies, its menu includes a peanut butter cream pie, among other sweet options.

After repeated attempts to contact Churchill Downs about the situation, Vaughn hired intellectual property attorney Amy Cahill, a partner at the Louisville-based Vice Cox & Townsend firm, to protect her trademark. Vaughn was told by another legal adviser that, “this is fraud or could also be counterfeit.”

Cahill sent a cease and desist letter to Levy, the Chicago-based hospitality company that caters for Churchill Downs and offers such services for hundreds of major sports and entertainment venues around the country, including Lynn Family Stadium. Additionally, an employee of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture sent an email about the cookies to Levy on Vaughn's behalf.

In a screenshot of the response dated Friday, May, 3, and shared with the Courier Journal, Matt Roach, a regional executive chef for Levy, acknowledged the concern and apologized.

“I have connected with the team at Churchill Downs. We apologize for the misrepresenting of the Please And Thank You product,” Roach said. “That area was trying to pay homage to local brands and the mark was missed. The label was immediately removed.”

But this message wasn’t enough for Vaughn, who wants to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. She says she has “a community of people who are angry” behind her.

“It feels wrong,” Vaughn said. “It feels like Churchill Downs should want to support local business. And if you’re willing to embrace my name and realize that it makes you look better, I think that you should actually pay for the product, because it will taste better.”

As of this writing, Vaughn said she and her attorney were awaiting a response from Levy. They have not filed suit and instead, have requested a public apology and a $50,000 settlement to cover her company's financial loss. If Please & Thank You cookies were actually served at the Derby, it would've come with financial and marketing benefits, Vaughn said.

The Courier Journal reached out to Levy for comment. It provided this statement: “We are actively engaged in solution-oriented conversations directly with this well-respected local purveyor. We appreciate your outreach and have no further comment at this time.”

Vaughn said her other goal in this case is to gain a better working relationship, and perhaps a contract, with Levy, Churchill Downs and/or Lynn Family Stadium.

“Mostly I just want them to take it seriously,” she said.

Please & Thank You has five locations and ships products around the country. The company, Vaughn said, is well-equipped for future and bigger catering opportunities.

“We’ve built something worth protecting, it seems,” she said. “Louisville knows that.”

Reach food reporter Amanda Hancock at

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Please & Thank You wants settlement alleged counterfeit cookies Derby