ADVERTISEMENT

Summer Davis, left, 17, Diamond Lloyd, 15, piled on the cookie dough as they prepared to make M&M cookies with some of the 145 teens who work at the Cookie Cart in north Minneapolis.

KYNDELL HARKNESS • kyndell.harkness@startribune.com,

Along with baking, Cookie Cart employees learn job skills that will help them in any career. A classroom upstairs teaches how to write a résumé and to deal with customers.

KYNDELL HARKNESS • kyndell.harkness@startribune.com,

Cookie Cart

What: The Cookie Cart bakery helps teach young people job skills and career readiness.

Where: Moved in 1996 to W. Broadway in Minneapolis, a busy but troubled neighborhood.

Its start: A Catholic nun began the operation in her home in the 1980s.

North Minneapolis' Cookie Cart has recipe for growth

  • Article by: Matt McKinney
  • Star Tribune
  • November 20, 2013 - 5:41 AM

A shot from a passing vehicle slammed through the Cookie Cart’s front window and sailed through the front lobby where kids in sunshine-yellow T-shirts meet customers.

It then pierced the wall in back, narrowly missing a group of about 15 teenagers baking.

But the north Minneapolis bakery that helps teens learn jobs skills isn’t backing down. Instead, it’s expanding.

Among its first order of business? Bulletproof glass.

“It’s our home, and we want to stay here,” Anna Bregier said of the Cookie Cart, adding that talk of moving to a new location was short-lived.

On Tuesday, a City Council committee approved using up to $30,000 in federal funds to pay for 12 bulletproof windows.

And in a few months, the Cookie Cart will begin a $1.4 million renovation to install new commercial freezers and coolers, increase the size of the bakery and hire more teenagers. A campaign has raised nearly all of the funds needed for the renovation from private sources.

“We’re going to be able to have twice as many people in this space,” said executive director Matt Halley, who helped drive the growth plan.

The nonprofit began with a Catholic nun, Sister Jean Thuerauf, who wanted to give kids in inner-city Minneapolis a part-time job and a safe place to hang out after school. It slowly grew and in 1996 moved to its 1119 W. Broadway location.

Today 145 teenagers bake nine varieties of cookies that bring in $300,000 in annual revenue. Sales account for a third of the revenue, with grants and individual gifts making up equal parts of the rest, said Bregier, director of development and marketing.

Cookies are the product, but the teenagers get job and career readiness training as well. Classes in an upstairs classroom include résumé writing and customer service skills.

It’s a popular job for teens. When his mom told him about a job possibility at the Cookie Cart, 16-year-old Mark Webb said he didn’t hesitate. “As soon as she said ‘a job,’ I was on it,” said Webb, of Brooklyn Park.

Many kids move on from their Cookie Cart jobs to take retail positions at the Mall of America.

“We turn away over 200 teens a year,” Bregier said. To meet the demand, the Cookie Cart started a quiet fundraising campaign, asking their longtime supporters for help. A major gift from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation kicked off the campaign with $300,000, half of which was a matching grant that drew another $150,000 from other sources.

Narrow escape

The fundraising plan was already underway when someone in a passing vehicle on W. Broadway fired the bullet May 14.

For many of the teens, it wasn’t a new experience, Bregier said. “Our teens are more used to it than the adults,” she said. “Some of our young leaders made sure everybody was OK.”

Someone in a car outside shot at a person in another car; the bullet wasn’t intended for anyone inside the Cookie Cart, Bregier said.

Halley said he heard rumblings that some council members didn’t like the idea of using Community Development Block Grant dollars — a source of federal funds — to buy bulletproof glass for the front of a neighborhood bakery. He was not asked to speak during Tuesday’s committee meeting, but he said he was prepared to.

“I would have said, ‘I don’t want to be here asking for bulletproof glass, but we’re committed to staying here and being safe,’ ” he said.

They expect the six-month project to begin in March. The bakery on W. Broadway will shut down during the work but plans to outsource cookie production to a commercial bakery during the project.

People walking past the Cookie Cart will see a big change after the renovation. The bakery, now in the back, will move to the front to show off the work.

Fundraising continues online, with the renovation project nearing $1.2 million of its $1.4 million goal.

Once the renovation is complete, Halley said the Cookie Cart will set its sights on opening a St. Paul location. That could happen within a couple of years, he said.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

© 2014 Star Tribune