Cookie Cart creates pathway for future entrepreneurs

Renovation will make business more environmentally friendly

By Brandi Phillips

Contributing Writer



Cookie CartwebIn the late 80’s and early 90’s, the world, the economy, the people and the way of living was vastly different from the way that things are now. Some people and organizations have decided to make the change with the times and improve their relationship to the land.

People and organizations are continuously becoming greener and more environmentally friendly. Native North Minneapolis business Cookie Cart is going in on the “Green” movement.

When I sat down to interview the Executive Director of Cookie Cart, Matt Halley, about the organization’s history, present, and future. This is what he told me:

“Youth start in the program at 15 years old and will exit around the time that they turn 18. They are not kicked out, but they will exit around this age. Then there are bakery assistants who can continue working while 18 or 19 years old. They are not called managers, but they are mentors and guides and have more responsibility.”

When asked why cookies are not being sold on the streets anymore, he replied, “Cookies being sold on the corner is not a current practice any longer because of the liability concerns. Also it is not the set of skills that we want them to learn. We want to teach them a set of skills to be successful in life. We do not want to teach them to be cookie peddlers…

“It is more of an employment training program in comparison to when we first started. Back then the kids just pocketed the money. Now they are paid traditionally with a regular paycheck every two weeks.

“The customer service is not ‘wanna buy? wanna buy?’ But it’s teaching young people how to build relationships with adults that come in to buy, how to provide outstanding customer service skills, and that is all about interpersonal

Matt Halley Photo courtesy of Cookie Cart
Matt Halley
Photo courtesy of Cookie Cart

communication and relationship building. It doesn’t really happen on a street corner.”

The new site is being remodeled and they are doubling their capacity to serve youth. The remodeling consisted of gutting the first floor and reconfiguring it so that the space is used more efficiently. Both office and stair spaces were wasted of spaces.

“The kitchen will come up to the window front so people can see the food being made and the process of it all,” says Halley. “It will have a similar appearance to Kindred Kitchen,” which is kitty corner to Cookie Cart.

Over the last two years they have served 145 young people. Last year they provided 24,000 hours of paid youth employment training, but turned away about 200 youth per year, because of the capacity constraints.

Recently, Cookie Cart was the recent recipient of a $10,000 recycling grant through Hennepin County, which Halley explains will be applied to renovations. “It is supporting one small piece of the $1.1 million renovation project. The money will be used to help us get the technology to be more green. We are going to get an enclosure, that is not so sexy, but it is really important. It is a city-required recycling container. It is replacing the bottles of water [Cookie Cart bottled water] with reusable cups.

“Instead of all of that plastic going into the landfill we will be more environmentally friendly.” The grant will also help buy recycling containers for paper as well making the loading dock area more conducive to recycling.

“So this program is also teaching [participants] to be responsible recyclers along with their employment training. It just puts a focus on [recycling] in a way we have not been able to. We have not had a dishwasher, so a lot of plastic and paper cups go through. We have always wanted to do this, but have not always had the funds.”

Cookie Cart has grown over the last 30 years from a nonprofit formed in 1988. There was no formal education. Now, along with the restorations, “the youth of the community will continue to get employment training for a maximum of 4-5 years [if they become a bakery assistant], plus the new added bonus to their education: recycling.

“The only way to help the future is to help the youth. The Cookie Cart has committed itself to helping the youth grow and change as the world around us continues to grow and change as well.”

The Cookie Cart will have a re-opening ceremony in late summer/early fall of 2014.


Brandi D. Phillips welcomes reader responses to