With steady growth, Dereck says Thelma’s Treats still maintains and holds on to the quiet determination his great-grandmother exhibited throughout her 108 years.
Thelma, Dereck says, would certainly be proud of what has become of her snickerdoodle cookie recipe and how it is the basis of a thriving business.
From barely affording to pay their first full-time employee to now employing 45 people has been one of the most gratifying experiences for Dereck and his family.
It’s also been a chance to display Midwest workmanship to thousands of customers nationwide.
“It’s cool to see something you made in places all over the coun
try, just to see it on the shelf and know it’s made from scratch.”
While the company is now large enough that mechanization is part of the process and not just a KitchenAid mixer, much of the process still features an individualized touch.
Every sandwich is still hand-filled with carefully crafted ice cream which goes between each cookie.
The ingredients remain as wholesome as when Great Grandmother Thelma was baking – eggs, sugar, flour and the dairy base for the vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream.
“We get our ice cream base from Anderson Erickson, just two blocks away,” Dereck says, adding that because of Thelma’s growth, the company also works directly with mills and other producers instead of third-party distributors.
Crafting a Premium Product
Challenges remain, of course, and Thelma’s Treats is no exception.
Input costs have risen, like eggs, for example.
A case of eggs used to cost $250, but then skyrocketed to $1,500 per case over 90 days.
“It was the perfect storm of regular pricing increases plus the recent avian flu outbreak,” says Dereck, noting prices are starting to flatten out.
Thelma’s also decided to try to follow a path of slow but steady growth.
“I always feel like we dance on that line. It’s been a good pace. Some years, we’ve had 20-30% growth, other years 100% growth,” Dereck says.
“We’re keen not to bite off more than we can chew. We are strategic about staffing, cash flow and equipment.”
In the end, Thelma’s Treats, has been and will always be a great ice cream sandwich and how it has become a touchstone not only for Dereck and his family but for those who hunger for something wholesome.
“Other manufacturers in this market may be cheaper, maybe lower end, smaller and more mechanized in how ice cream sandwiches are made,” he says. “We took a craft approach to an idea that existed and improved on what we saw in the market. We like to compare it to the craft beer movement – sometimes you want something different, a little more premium.”
Thelma’s Legacy Stands the Test of Time
While there are thousands of outlets where Thelma’s Treats can be found, Dereck says the company still holds true to its small-town roots and will often sell its ice sandwiches at smaller venues and events.