AMERIPRIDE GOES TO THE STATE FAIR

When the refreshingly cool, deliciously sweet and deep fried heavyweights of the Minnesota State Fair need uniforms and linens, they rely on their backyard neighbor, AmeriPride. Little known fact, we help 30+ vendors present a clean, branded appearance at the best-attended 12-day event in North America. And it’s a big responsibility when total attendance is close to 2 million visitors each year. Although these booths and buildings are somewhat non-traditional, AmeriPride delivers the same reliable service on a condensed, daily schedule. Some of our customers have been using our tablecloths, chef coats, aprons, towels, mats and soaps for more than 30 years (talk about building relationships)!

We’ve dotted our map with our fair-tastic customers. And because the Great Minnesota Get-Together is such a fascinating microcosm, we chatted with a handful of booths to hear how they conquered the Fair application process, how they’ve grown over the years and how the right vendor partners make all the difference. If you’re heading to the Fair, keep your eyes peeled for these blue ribbon vendors.

  1. The X-Zone
  2. Pet Center
  3. Police Officers Quarters
  4. Giggles’ Campfire Grill
  5. Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar
  6. The North Woods
  7. Family Fair Stage at Baldwin Park
  8. Fine Arts Center
  9. Medical Aid East
  10. Schell’s Stage at Schilling Amphitheater
  11. LuLu’s Public House
  12. The Blue Barn
  1. Medical Aid West
  2. The Perfect Pickle
  3. Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar
  4. Eat Your Heart Out (Grandstand catering)
  5. Midway Men’s Club
  6. Cosgrove Stage
  7. Vesico’s
  8. Big Fat Bacon
  9. World’s Greatest French Fries and Real S’mores
  10. Ragin Cajun
  11. The Garden Stage
  12. Ball Park Cafe
  1. Fresh Cinnamon Rolls (located in the Food Building)
  2. Mancini’s al Fresco
  3. Dino’s Gyros
  4. Mac’s Grille (located in the Food Building)
  5. Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar
  6. Leinie Lodge Bandshell
  7. Ramberg Center Stage
  8. The Peg
  9. J.V. Bailey House
  10. International Bazaar Stage
  11. Holy Land Deli

Martha Rossini Olson, owner, Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar

What made you choose to be a State Fair vendor? How did the idea come about?

We had lived in St. Paul and gone to the State Fair all the time so we thought it would be a good idea to apply with our yogurt. At the time, we owned a frozen yogurt shop at 7th & Hennepin, and we were putting crushed chocolate chip cookies on top of our yogurt.

What was the application process like?

You fill out an application and pray. We were rejected the first year because there were other yogurt vendors there already. The next year we applied with yogurt and cookies. Three weeks before the State Fair, they called us and said someone cancelled and asked if we could take the spot. But they just wanted our cookies! We started in a little 9-by-11 stand on the boulevard. We moved locations almost every year along the way and picked up a second stand. Last year was the first year with our third stand, which is up on Machinery Hill.

How many years have you been at the State Fair?

Since 1979 – I was two years old when I started! Haha! 

How long does it take to prepare every year? How early do you get started?

We start in February with our schedule and hiring. Throughout the summer we do a couple other events at the State Fair that are warm ups for us. After the 12 days of the Fair, we have crews cleaning and then there’s payroll.

How many people work in your booth?

That first year we started with a baker, a server and someone pouring milk. Now we’re up to 615 employees with three stands!

How did you choose AmeriPride?

We were with AmeriPride when it was American Linen since day one. I knew you were right by the State Fair, and of course we wanted to stay local. The minute we came to the State Fair, I had heard from other vendors that American Linen was on the grounds and I said, “Sign me up!”   

How does AmeriPride help you survive the State Fair?

AmeriPride picks up and delivers every day. What more could I ask for? With the volume of linens we go through, your service is so key. We’ve always enjoyed your services, and you guys make us look so clean, especially in the mornings when we put on those sparkling clean aprons. You just don’t know how much we appreciate your service. 

Besides your booth (of course) what is your must-have food at the State Fair?

I always have to get a Pronto Pup. And I love Dino’s gyros. Another favorite is right across the street from us, Mancini’s.  

Do you have any fond memories of the State Fair as a child?

Absolutely! It was back in the day when and I was the oldest girl in the family so I had to bring my siblings to the Fair. And of course we went around with our WCCO bag and collected every pamphlet from the Grandstand. And we always had to get a Peter’s Wiener and a rainbow sno cone.​


Stephanie Shimp, Owner, The Blue Barn

Have you always been in the hospitality area?

My business partner, David Burley, and I met as servers at the Nicollet Island Inn and from there started our first restaurant, Highland Grill. This restaurant morphed into the Blue Plate Restaurant Company, which includes nine Twin Cities restaurants, an event space, a farm and a spot at the State Fair – The Blue Barn! 

What made you choose to be a State Fair vendor? How did the idea come about?

We consider it a badge of honor to be a vendor at the State Fair. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. And since the State Fair is like its own mini neighborhood for 12 days of the year, it was a great fit for Blue Plate. We bring the Blue Plate food, philosophy and hospitality to the State Fair neighborhood. 

What was the application process like?

Long! It took nine years on the waiting list (and some real patience) to get into the State Fair. 2017 will be our fourth year at the Fair.

How long does it take to prepare every year? How early do you get started?

Almost immediately after the State Fair ends! We do a post-Fair meeting to highlight what went well and what we can do better the next year. Then around February, we start preparing our menu for August. We have monthly meetings until July and then commence weekly planning meetings with our operations, culinary, finance and marketing teams. 

How many people work in your booth?

We employ about 140 people at The Blue Barn. At any given time we can have between 15-40 people working. 

How did you choose AmeriPride?

We use AmeriPride in our restaurants, and we know you're reliable and dependable, so it was natural for us to partner with you at the State Fair.  

How does AmeriPride help you survive the State Fair?

AmeriPride is a solid business partner. You understand what it takes to be at the State Fair and that every second counts. We know we can depend on your team. 

Besides your booth (of course) what is your must-have food at the State Fair?

We love the Produce Exchange – their booth is right across from The Blue Barn in the West End Market. They have awesome peaches, and their watermelon slices with kombucha is one of our favorite snacks. We also love the State Fair staples – cheese curds, cookies and French fries!


Tina Jordan, Big Fat Bacon

How did you get started in your business?

Our family has been at the State Fair since 1977. My uncle, Larry Abdo, started the Big Fat Bacon booth 10 years ago. His daughter, Mandy, and I now operate the business with Larry. 

How many people work in your booth?

This year we are fortunate enough to be expanding our business. In the past, our total staff was about 25 people. This year we are doubling that number. 

How does AmeriPride help you survive the State Fair?

You have been a reliable vendor for other restaurants and came highly recommended to us. As you can imagine, maple glazed bacon is very messy, greasy and sticky! We go through lots of aprons and towels each day. Our AmeriPride representative delivers daily and makes frequent check-ins with us to make sure we have an ample supply of what we need.

Besides your booth (of course) what is your must-have food at the State Fair?

Pickles with the cream cheese in the middle from The Perfect Pickle, French fries and an Original Beergarita from Tejas Express.

Do you have any fond memories of the State Fair as a child?

When I lost my first tooth, I got 50 cents to spend at the State Fair from the Tooth Fairy. I waited all day but finally decided to spend it on the Giant Slide. It was an awesome ride. I still ride it every year!


Mark C. Andrew, Owner, World’s Greatest French Fries and Real S’mores

How did you get started in your business?

I borrowed $200 from my father to pay for materials to build the first Real S’mores stand. During my first year at the State Fair, one s’more was 25 cents, and I gave away free spring water to bring customers to the stand. That stand put me through college. 

How many years have you been at the State Fair?

I’ve been at the Fair for 47 years with Real S’mores and 43 years with the World’s Greatest French Fries. 

How long does it take to prepare every year? How early do you get started?

Our manager starts the hiring process in May/June, and we really start to gear up by ordering products around August 1st

How many people work in your booth? 

We have between 35 and 40 employees each year. 

How did you choose AmeriPride?

I can’t remember when we weren’t with AmeriPride. I just email our sales representative each year with my order, and the linens miraculously appear daily.

How does AmeriPride help you survive the State Fair?

AmeriPride checks in with my manager to make sure her linen needs are met daily. You take the worry out of her job. It has been a great collaboration being able to trust that AmeriPride will take care of our linen needs each year. We love you!

Besides your booth (of course) what is your must-have food at the State Fair? 

I have to get corn-on-the-cob with lots of butter!

Do you have any fond memories of the State Fair as a child?

I remember all the rides at the Midway and sneaking into the Fair when we were short on cash as teenagers!


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