A Dirty Dough Cookie shop is planning to open its doors in Williston in April.
The latest craze in gourmet cookie shops hails from Lindon, Utah, corporate headquarters of Dirty Dough Cookie.
Described online as a "super stuffed cookie bomb," Dirty Dough is a franchise that's catching on throughout the Mountain states, particularly Utah, where shops have opened in Salt Lake City and Provo. More Dirty Dough Cookie stores are scheduled to open in Utah — from St. George to Ogden.
So...what's up with the name?
According to company Founder Bennett Maxwell, Dirty Dough alludes to the flaws in everyone. He said mental-health issues are often related to society's quest for perfectionism.
"Life is messy," Maxwell said, noting his strong interest in the healthcare crisis arising throughout American society today.
A Dirty Dough Cookie (DDC) may not look perfect on the outside, but it's filled with goodness, Maxwell said.
"It means we focus on the inside of the cookie," he explained. "It doesn't matter what the appearance is. It's the inside that matters most."
In addition to North Dakota, DDC franchises are catching on in Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma, where more shops are scheduled to open this year, along with Florida, California and other states.
The original flagship DDC store opened in Tempe, Arizona.
Maxwell said a friend from Utah started baking the stuffed cookies out of his apartment and he wanted in.
"I wanted to be his first franchise, but he wanted me to buy it," said Maxwell, who grew up in Utah.
He was a salesman in California prior to launching DDC along with "advisers" who have high-tech and property-management backgrounds.
Williston was selected because it's a growing city with a young, discerning population, according to James Wilda, a partner in the local shop, scheduled to open at Park Plaza on 2nd Avenue within the next three months.
"We would love to open April 1st," said Wilda, 43.
Realistically, Wilda anticipates opening the cookie shop by the third week of April. If all goes well, however, Williston could have its first Dirty Dough Cookie shop by April Fool's Day.
"We live here and believe it's a great market," said Wilda, referring to his wife and their three daughters. "It seems like every chain that opens here does well."
A lot of franchises "don't understand how unique Williston is, given the oil market that we rely on so heavily," he continued. "A lot of people don't realize how much we've grown and how stable [Williston] is."
He compared the Bakken region to eastern Utah and the Uinta Basin, where he lived for about 10 years until returning to his home-state of Montana.
Wilda moved to Williston three years ago.
"I grew up on a ranch in central Montana," he said. "Williston may not be my hometown, but it feels so similar — the small town and the country wilderness people. It just feels very similar to home."
Wilda, who works for a North Dakota drilling company, said he is opening the cookie shop with Duane Richins, a partner from Eagle Mountain, Utah.
"He's a long-time family friend and he approached us to open a few of these franchises up here," Wilda said.
The decision to open a DDC franchise, he added, is based on the impressive level of support from the company's corporate offices in Utah and the growing popularity of fresh-baked gourmet cookies.
Dirty Dough Cookie Founder Bennett Maxwell said the franchise, launched in 2022, has an aggressive schedule for signing up franchisees and opening new stores throughout the United States.
"Right now, we have seven states that are open, and 36 additional states that will be opened this year in the next quarter," said Maxwell, 30.
Currently, the company has 295 stores with franchise agreements, he said.
"By the end of the year, 130 of those will be open," Maxwell said.
He noted each franchisee is committed to opening four or five DDC shops. In addition to Texas and Utah, Florida and California are expected to add up to 25 stores to the line-up, Maxwell said.
The scheduled April opening for a Williston shop is extremely realistic, he said. In fact, the aggressive deadline meets the company's expectations.
"Once somebody signs a lease and franchise agreement they have three months to open, typically," Maxwell said.
The company provides end-to-end support to franchisees, he said, explaining DDC offers potential owners extensive demographic assessments while leaving it up to interested franchisees to determine locations.
"We have a very simplistic franchise model based on bulk order," Maxwell said. "It's very capital intensive on the corporate side because we are in the food business and the logistics business. We own our own [delivery] trucks. We also own the entire manufacturing side."
Fresh cookie dough is delivered to franchise locations with refrigerated trucks, so there is no mixing of ingredients in the store. However, Dirty Dough cookies are freshly baked onsite, Maxwell pointed out.
"In the gourmet cookie space, we are the only one that's taking care of franchisees to that extent," he continued, noting the business model reduces labor costs and store square footage for franchisees. "We make the product for you and provide quality control."
"They come to us with their area in mind and we look at the demographics, and then make a recommendation," Maxwell said, noting DDC's target customers are younger mothers. "Primarily, it's moms buying cookies for their kids."
After partnering with a realtor group to provide demographics stats, he said "the amount of data they look at is crazy."
Statistics include monthly household dessert budgets — even how much each household spends on cookies.
Call it a Cookie Spend
"Who doesn't like cookies?" Wilda asked, noting the uniqueness of the product. "They are all stuffed cookies, layered with stuffing."
Plus, it's "something really new and fun that we think people will really enjoy," Wilda said. He referred to the Williston location as a "great advantage."
Wilda said the Park Plaza location will make it easy for customers to "step inside, grab what they want and be on their way."
"It has great access, close to downtown, a lot of traffic from schools and other businesses surrounding it," he said. "So it should be a place where people can get in and out real easily."
His wife, Summer, will help manage the shop, Wilda said.
They've already received dozens of inquiries for jobs. Including part-time workers, the Wildas expect to hire between 15 to 20 employees, with varying schedules.
"We've had people asking for jobs for months already," Wilda said. "With these small towns — word of mouth is your best advertising. That's true for Williston as well."
The April 1 target for a grand opening may seem ambitious for a store that just received building renovation permission from the City of Williston, but Wilda said construction is scheduled to begin as soon as all the necessary construction permits are approved.
The full support he's received from DDC corporate leadership, combined with the simplicity of the shop's design and the commitment to launch as quickly as possible makes an April grand opening achievable, he said.
A key component of Wilda's optimism for opening sooner, rather than later, is the level of support he and his partner have received from Dirty Dough's founder.
"We got to work with him a lot in the early stages," he said of Maxwell. "This is a really young franchise so it was really neat to speak with the founder directly.
"I haven't met him face to face, but he takes my phone calls," Wilda continued. "From my perspective, he's done a good job of building the right team of business partners that have the experience to do this right."
The management team includes CEO Jill Summerhays, who founded and eventually sold Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffees & Smoothies, according to Maxwell.
"I hired a very experienced CEO in December 2021," Maxwell said, praising Summerhays for her expertise in the franchise space. "This is her 40th year of franchising brands."
For Williston gourmet cookie lovers, the most important point is that a Dirty Dough franchise is scheduled to open at Park Plaza on April 1.
"I think that by mid-February we should know if that's feasible, or if we'll be a week or two out," Wilda said. "We have a location we're excited about and we're happy to be moving forward."
What's his favorite Dirty Dough Cookie?
"I like the classic chocolate chip," Wilda said. "It's absolutely fantastic."