Milk mustaches were bold outside the Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar booth near the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair.
Lining up only hours after gates opened on a recent day for a big bucket were 4-H kids who make a tradition out of purchasing the fresh, warm chocolate chip cookies.
“Literally every day I get Sweet Martha’s,” said Grace Hilton, 13, from Grand Meadow, who came to the fair to show her goat.
Said her mom Carla, “They never disappoint.”
Customer loyalty is one of the reasons Sweet Martha’s continues to be the top-selling concession at the fair year after year. Over the 12 days of the 2016 fair, it brought in $4 million, more than three-times the revenue for the runner up, the All You Can Drink Milk booth.
Another reason? Those buckets, filled with gravity-defying piles of little cookies to a hilarious degree. Servers manage to get so many cookies teetering on top of the pile that friends have to stand around stuffing themselves with cookies just so they can close the lid. Others bring plastic baggies or containers to divvy them up.
Those heaping buckets of chocolate chip cookies are the latest over-the-top food to be featured in our video series, Outta Control (watch more videos here).
Since it launched in 1979 in a 9-by-11-foot booth, Sweet Martha’s has grown into a mega-icon of the fair.
Today, its three booths can produce up to 3 million cookies a day – that’s 200,000 cookies per hour. In one year, they go through 54 tons of chocolate chips, 62 tons of flour and 42,000-dozen eggs. Wrap your mind around that for a moment.
“Who would have thought?” said Martha Rossini Olson, who founded the business with her husband Gary Olson and friends Neil and Brenda O’Leary. “There were no cookies at the fair when we started.”
Olson samples the cookies every day. “I have a sweet tooth,” she said.
And she’s modest about her name being attached to one of the fair’s most famous and beloved purveyors.
She calls it her “15 minutes of fame.”
For 39 years? “I guess that’s more than 15 minutes,” she conceded.
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