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Non-profit cookies coming to Payne
Another company picks up a vacant storefront building
In the heart of Payne Avenue’s commercial corridor, a non-profit cookie and teen job skills organization is looking to take root.
After scoping out a variety of East Side buildings, Minneapolis-based non-profit Cookie Cart bit the bullet and purchased 946 Payne Ave., where it intends to expand its operations to give East Side teens jobs and training.
Built in 1948, the 10,000-square-foot building offers a 5,000-square-foot main floor, which will be equipped with a bakery and classroom space.
The company has begun a $3.2 million capital campaign to pay for the building and its various renovations, which include adding an elevator.
The organization has been active in the north side of Minneapolis where it serves about 200 teens ages 15-18 annually, providing them with paying jobs, along with job readiness and life skills.
With the success of the programming over in Minneapolis, Cookie Cart has been wanting to add a second location for the past five years.
Cookie Cart director Matt Halley said the organization picked the East Side after looking in a number of St. Paul neighborhoods to identify need for teen job training.
Cookie Cart was encouraged to locate on Payne Avenue by the East Side Neighborhood Development Company.
The company’s goal is to have the second location up and running in 2017, but to do that, it will need to complete a successful capital campaign.
“The building will sit empty for two years until we get to a point where we’re close to having all the money that we need,” Halley said. “If the money comes in faster, we’ll open faster than that,” he added.
But, the company will do programming on the East Side well before the storefront bakery opens - it’s entered into a partnership with St. Paul Public Schools’ Johnson High School to provide various training programs to teens after school.
The teens will get paid minimum wage for participating in the classes, which touch on topics like financial literacy, customer service training, and job skills training. They’ll also be able to participate in cookie selling events as representatives of Cookie Cart.
Such classes are the backbone of the organization -- on the front end, the company provides teens with a first job making and selling cookies, but those kids are also plugged into training programs to prepare them for life beyond their first jobs.
Homework & cookies
According to a document from the organization, Cookie Cart was founded in 1988 by Sister Jean Thuerauf who years earlier had begun baking cookies with neighborhood teens, while also helping them with their homework in her North Minneapolis kitchen.
“The Cookie Cart bakery opening was the realization of her dream to provide a safe, secure, creative and engaging space for area teens,” the document states.
For those pondering the merit of teaching kids to sell an unhealthy item such as a cookie, Halley posits: “the cookies are really just a byproduct of a great youth development program.
“Technically, we could probably be making widgets or some other kind of food product.”
He noted that the organization has tried selling muffins before, and also offers a healthy cookie, but those items don’t sell very well.
And besides, he added, the organization has built up a brand and a customer base. Plus, he posits, baking and marketing cookies are the perfect level of complexity for a teenager.
The organization offers kids after-school programming and jobs during the school year, and expanded hours during the summer when they have more free time. In the summer months, program participants sell cookies at a variety of community events like Rondo Days, Union Depot events, and more.
In all, cookie sales to various shops and catering events accounts for about one-third of the organization’s revenue. Another third comes from grants, and the remainder comes from individual donations.