A highlight for many Minnesota State Fair-lovers is the announcement of new food vendors each summer. A battle of sorts is waged every year as new products are promoted and tested, with a limited amount of accepted applicants. With 576 vendors in line for a spot at the fair, only about five or six rookies are allowed in each year.
One tried and true vendor located near the grandstand of the fairgrounds is that of roasted corn. Would you believe that this stand has a connection to the University of St. Thomas? Brad Ribar dedicated his graduate business thesis to the hope and vision of starting up a sweet corn stand at the fair! That dream came to pass and Ribar continues to succeed—the stand is one of the top-grossing food businesses at one of the nation’s top-grossing state fairs. Not too bad for a guy who worked at the fair as a kid, picking up garbage!
Ribar waited five years before he got approval to sell his corn-on-the-cob in 1985. His idea came to him during a visit to the Wisconsin State Fair. He tried an ear of corn at this fair and “the light bulb went off,” as he said. He knew the key to quality was in the preparation—roasting it. Ribar set out to bring roasted corn to the Minnesota State Fair, honing his strategy during his MBA studies at UST. At first, fair officials weren’t sold. After three years he convinced fair administrators, though it took two more years to find a big enough space for the stand he envisioned. Ribar got a lucky break in locations when a meatloaf purveyor retired, thus giving up prime real estate. Each year, Ribar clears $100,000 in sales, going through 190,000 ears of corn during the 12 day run of the fair.
Learn more about Ribar’s stand by reading the recent Star Tribune article about him. If you’re headed to the fair this weekend, be sure to stop by this stand—the wafting scent of roasting corn will direct you. Happy eating!