Hawaii is known for its delicious cuisine — fresh pineapples, savory pork, and colorful poke bowls — but for Matt Rosen of Eden Prairie, it was one fateful bite of a Hawaiian shortbread cookie that changed his life forever.
“I absolutely fell in love with shortbread cookies,” he said.
Rosen’s head-over-heels tumble in 2017 has since turned into a full-fledged business venture. He is now known as Sergeant Shortbread, offering up one life-changing bite of shortbread after another at farmers markets and local festivals throughout the southwest metro.
After Rosen’s first bite of shortbread, reality quickly set in. He realized that paying to have shortbread cookies shipped to Minnesota from Hawaii on a regular basis would be cost-prohibitive. But rather than mourn what could have been, Rosen dreamt up a solution.
He returned from his trip to Hawaii with a new purpose. Rosen was going to learn to make shortbread cookies himself. There was only one problem. “I had never used a mixer before,” he admitted.
But after 23 years in the military, Rosen did know how to take orders. “AKA, follow a recipe,” he said. Rosen got to work whipping up his first batch of shortbread, followed by his second and his third. At the same time, Rosen also began dabbling in items such as toaster pastries, donuts, and mini bundt cakes.
“I always came back to shortbread, though,” he said. “It ignited a passion for baking I never knew I had.”
Soon, Rosen’s kitchen was overrun, and his wife was encouraging him to take his creations to work. The cookies were a hit with his co-workers, and before long, they were asking to order them. Rosen got his cottage food license and left a pile of order forms on his desk.
With regular orders coming in from his co-workers, Rosen began to toy with the idea of doing a farmers market. He decided to bring a selection of his shortbread, along with homemade granola, blizzard bark, and peanut butter krispie treats, to the Hopkins Farmers Market. At the same time, he opened up his orders to outside of the office and began making deliveries on his lunch break. “It just kept growing,” he said.
Reporting for duty
By June 2020, Rosen realized that he could no longer sustain his regular job and his shortbread business. He decided to make the leap, quitting his day job and embarking on a small business venture he would call “Sergeant Shortbread,” as a nod to his days in the military.
“My wife completely supported me, still does,” he said. “She’s definitely my biggest fan.”
Rosen said quitting a steady paycheck was scary, but he embraced the challenge. “It was fun scary,” he said.
These days, Rosen wears many hats — from dishwasher to CEO and everything in between — but he loves it. “I eat a lot less shortbread these days,” he said. “But I’m definitely not sick of baking.”
Rosen bakes every day to fulfill online orders and have product to sell for three weekly farmers markets he attends. The Sergeant Shortbread stand can be found Tuesdays at the Minnetonka Farmers Market, Wednesdays at the Chaska Farmers Market and Thursdays at Hopkins Farmers Market. Rosen also bakes for special events like the upcoming Arts in the Park in Eden Prairie’s Purgatory Park on Aug. 19.
Welcome to flavor town
One of Rosen’s favorite parts of the job is developing new shortbread flavors. “I love coming up with new recipes, new flavor combinations,” he said.
His top seller (and his personal favorite) is blueberry lemon. Other top sellers include dark chocolate sea salt, sea salt caramel and cherry almond. For the 10 and under set, it’s “always confetti shortbread.”
Rosen has been dabbling in more exotic flavors of late. He recently created a spicy peanut butter shortbread, an IPA-flavored cookie and a dill pickle potato chip shortbread. “The dill builds after the first bite,” he said.
“I love seeing the joy in people’s faces when they bite into a cookie,” he said. “The world needs a little more joy and happiness and if I can do that with one or two shortbread cookies, I’m happy to.”
Best cookies in the state
Rosen said he has no desire to take on cookie giants like Nabisco or General Mills, but he would love to see his cookies recognized throughout the state. “I’d like to be one of the best shortbread cookies in the state of Minnesota,” he said.
And while Rosen occasionally toys with the idea of having his own retail space, he’s determined to stay as local and hands-on as possible. “I want to grow,” he added. “But I don’t want to grow that big.”
Rosen likes being the one who not only comes up with the recipes, but bakes and cuts the cookies, packages them and then delivers them personally. “I love doing every aspect of this job.”
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