The Cookie Cart of North Minneapolis is expanding to St. Paul. The nonprofit employs  up to 200 teenagers annually through training, financial-and-career classes, and part-time jobs of up to 30 hours weekly. A 2015 fundraiser included supporters and youth employees.

Cookie Cart, the north Minneapolis bakery that trains and employs 200 teens annually, plans to break ground later this month on a St. Paul bakery.

Executive Director Matt Halley said the nonprofit enterprise has secured two-thirds of the $3.2 million needed to acquire, renovate and equip the 1950s-vintage grocery store, and that the community had embraced Cookie Cart’s youth-engagement efforts on the eastside commercial artery.

“We provide that first job experience for teenagers, and there are a lot of young people in that eastside neighborhood who need job opportunities,” Halley said. “There are challenges in that community and in some homes that make it important to offer a supportive-job opportunity.

“We’ve done pilot programs at nearby Johnson High School, two cohorts of 24 kids each. They learned to work in our [Minneapolis] bakery. And they took our classroom components, such as financial literacy and career planning. It worked. We’re excited.”

Cookie Cart aims to be part of the commercial revitalization of Payne Avenue, as well as employ up to 100 St. Paul kids annually in part-time jobs.

The ground breaking ceremony on Thursday, June 29 at 7:30 a.m. at 946 Payne Av., will feature students, political and community officials, and neighboood businesses, including breakfast next door at Brunson’s Pub. Watson Forsberg is the contractor.

The refurbished St. Paul Cookie Cart should open in early 2018.

Cookie Cart, started by a Catholic nun and a few kids on the north side in the 1980s, last year posted operating revenue of about $1.6 million from sales and contributions. The social enterprise, which combines cooking and life-skills training, has doubled cookie sales over the last five years from its refurbished bakery on W. Broadway Avenue, the main commercial artery of the north side.

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