Walking down West Broadway Ave., it is almost impossible not to smell the sweet aroma coming from the Cookie Cart, 1119 West Broadway Ave.
As its name suggests, the only menu items are cookies – available in several varieties. But, the Cookie Cart does a lot more than produce baked goods. It is also a workforce training center for neighborhood teens.
The Cookie Cart was started in 1988 by Sister Jean Thuerauf to help neighborhood youth stay off the street and out of gangs. Today, Cookie Cart employs 140 youth ages 15-17 annually. For many, it is their first paid work experience. All those employed are required to be enrolled and doing well in school. In addition to learning how to bake cookies, employees learn the skills essential to getting and maintaining a job: customer service, problem solving, team work and conflict and time management.
As employees of the Cookie Cart, students have opportunities to attend field trips to several Twin Cities Fortune 500 companies and meet a variety of people in high level positions.
“We don’t want to focus kids from high school into a menial job. The bakery is a good platform to teach students to become whatever they want, including doctors or lawyers,” said Cookie Cart executive director, Matt Halley. “Beyond the bakery focused work, Cookie Cart also prepares its young employees to take the National Career ReadinessExam and ACT college admissions test.”
Due to limited internal capacity, last year the Cookie Cart turned away 200 youth seeking employment.
“A lot of kids my age really do need the job, they need to do something else besides what they are doing,” said Emerie, a Cookie Cart youth employee. “They are not spending their time in a good way.”
The Cookie Cart recently started a capital campaign to double the amount of youth workers it can employ. With this campaign, the Cookie Cart is looking to triple its services and expand to St. Paul. The campaign also includes major improvements to the organization’s existing building. The reconfiguration of the North Minneapolis space will include splitting the bakery into two separate spaces. Renovations will also add an elevator, repair the roof and leaky basement and improve the retail coffee shop space.
Sister Jean Thuerauf and Matt Halley
The Cookie Cart: 1119 West Broadway Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55411
(612) 521-0855, Retail Shop Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm, Delivery Available