Cream puffs in August. More than 385,000 in 11 days, to be exact. That is how many cream puffs the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Bakery sold during the 2006 Wisconsin State Fair. At $3 per puff or $16 per half dozen, that’s a lot of money. During the 2006 fair, the bakery raked in $1.093 million. After expenses, the profits go to the Wisconsin Bakers Association. “It’s about 90 percent of our revenue that keeps the association going,” says Dave Schmidt, the association’s executive director and Dairy Bakery’s operations director. “It is the association’s life blood.”
|In 11 days, the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Bakery sold almost 400,000 cream puffs.|
The concept of the bakery was introduced in 1922 when the State Fair board and the dairy industry approached the bakery association on how to best incorporate Wisconsin-produced flour and dairy products, Schmidt says. The bakery opened in 1924 with 412 sq. ft. in the same building that it still operates in today. “Cream puffs were one of the things that they could tie in and make on site,” he adds. Since opening, the bakery has only missed two years of operation during World War II due to rationing. When the bakery reopened in 1946, the cream puffs took off in popularity.
Today, the bakery occupies 9,600 sq. ft., and in addition to the cream puffs, produced 20,000 brownies and about 5,000 cookies during last year’s fair. The bakery has six sales windows; two outside the building and four inside. People can call in orders 24 hours in advance, and pick them up at a drive-thru window in the transportation center outside of the fairgrounds from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. every morning of the fair. The minimum order for the drive-thru is a half-dozen cream puffs.
“We have anywhere from 450 to 800 dozen going out every morning,” Schmidt says. The bakery even offers a catering service, where for a minimum order of 10 dozen cream puffs, ambulances (a sponsor of the fair) will deliver the orders to area businesses within a 25-mile radius.
Schmidt estimates that about 700,000 people walked through the bakery last year, with total fair attendance of 900,000. Even if all 700,000 aren’t buying products, they are coming in to see what is going on, which helps promote the baking industry, Schmidt says.
The fair is committed to remaining a good value for family entertainment, and therefore, Schmidt is keeping the bakery’s prices the same even in light of increasing ingredient and fuel costs. “We estimate that our ingredient costs on everything have gone up $24,000 from last year. What we are hoping to do is sell about 10 more six-packs of cream puffs per hour, if we can move the customers through faster,” Schmidt says. “We are going to adjust our queuing system a bit.”
Last year was the bakery’s second highest sales total, with the last three years breaking the $1 million mark. “We’re just pleased as punch over it, and it’s not easy getting there. We had rain one day last year when we did $66,000 in sales, and we were bored,” Schmidt says. “Bored on a $66,000 day. There’s probably bakers across the country that wished they had a $66,000 day.”