The story behind Sweet Martha’s cookies
Who doesn’t love Sweet Martha’s cookies? Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar has been serving oven-hot, baked-on-the-spot chocolate chip cookies at the Minnesota State Fair for over 35 years.
Back in the mid 1970s, Martha Rossini Olson (aka Sweet Martha), along with her husband, Gary Olson, and their friend Neil O’Leary, opened one of the first frozen yogurt shops in the Twin Cities. At the time, they tried to get a booth at the State Fair, but were rejected because there was already another yogurt vendor.
After a couple of years, they introduced Famous Amos cookie crumble toppings for their yogurt. The customer response was huge, and an idea was born: Martha and her partners started experimenting with recipes for miniature cookies to sell at their shop.
That year, they applied again to the State Fair, this time asking to open a chocolate-chip cookie stand, and found out weeks before the start of the Fair that they had been accepted. They scrambled to rent baking equipment and perfect the recipe, and in August of 1979 Martha, Gary and Neil, along with Neil’s wife, Brenda, opened up the very first Sweet Martha’s cookie booth. At that point they were able to bake 200 cookies every 12 minutes.
“The key ingredient to our success is our employees. Many of them have worked for us since day one.“
Over the years, they expanded, bought more equipment and hired more employees. “We are so fortunate, so thrilled,” says Martha. “The key ingredient to our success is our employees. Many of them have worked for us since day one. For many of them, it was their first job. They keep coming back, taking time off from work to work at the Fair.”
Today, Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar has two State Fair booths and 12 ovens that can bake 24,000 cookies every 12 minutes.
However, they discovered that the demand for Sweet Martha’s cookies went beyond the Minnesota State Fair – people wanted them year round! In response, Martha and her partners created frozen cookie dough to sell in grocery stores.
“We wanted people to be able to mimic what we do at the State Fair – fresh Sweet Martha’s cookies, hot out of the oven,” Martha explains. “We wanted to keep the cookies with no preservatives; we buy the best, freshest ingredients we can find.”
Want to enjoy Sweet Martha’s cookies all year long? You can find five varieties of Sweet Martha’s cookie dough in the frozen section of all our stores, including the famous Original Chocolate Chip that started it all.