Monday Munchies: All in the family at Mary’s Mountain Cookies

The downtown shop is celebrating one year in Sioux Falls
Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 5:39 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Since opening in downtown Sioux Falls a year ago, Mary’s Mountain Cookies has been a breath of fresh mountain air.

”So many times, I will get customers (that) come in and will say, ‘Oh my gosh, this flavor cookie tastes just like my grandma used to make,” said owner Becky McElroy.

”Those are the warm, fuzzy feelings of just knowing that there’s that family connection that they’re finding, and those memories, those happy memories.”

McElroy is making — and baking — those memories with her husband Dave and their three daughters — Mara (19), Brenna (16), and Taryn (9).

”I like being around her a lot more,” Brenna said of her mother as the two prepared fresh batches of Christmas sugar cookies early on Monday morning.

“I love working here. I’m happy to come to work, where my other friends don’t want to go into work. I don’t understand it.”

Even nine-year-old Taryn rings up cookies.

“It’s funny to watch customers’ reactions when they have this little 9-year-old that’s giving them the spiel,” Becky said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed having the extra time with my kids.”

It was a desire to spend more time with their daughters that partly spawned Mary’s Mountain Cookies in Sioux Falls. Dave owns Rainbow Comics and Collectibles, while Becky owns Patient X, a marketing firm for health care companies.

Those businesses kept the parents away from more of Mara’s activities than Becky and Dave wanted. So, when Brenna entered high school, “I knew that time would go that much faster,” Becky said.” They wanted to start a third business that the daughters could take part in.

It was on a family trip when the McElroy’s had their Eureka moment to open a cookie shop in Sioux Falls.

”We would always stop at the Mary’s Mountain Cookies store in downtown Rapid City, and always had to get our cookies for the ride home, and we just loved them so much,” Becky said. “My husband and I are very (well-versed) in the business ownership side of the world, and we were looking for something else to add to our already existing businesses.”

But, as with all major family matters, Becky and Dave wanted to toss around the idea of bringing Mary’s to Sioux Falls with their kids before taking the plunge. If Mara, Brenna, and Taryn weren’t on board, there would be no Mary’s.

”They were like, we’re going to own a cookie store, and I was, like, ‘We are?!’ I couldn’t believe it was real,” Brenna said.

Becky delegated some of her day-by-day authority at Patient X and dove into research on Mary’s. She connected with owner Mary Johns, a former dude ranch chef whose gargantuan cookies were a hit with horseback riders, both because their size prevented the cookies from rattling around in their containers, and because of how irresistible they were.

She opened up her first Mary’s Mountain Cookies shop in Fort Collins, Colorado, and 25 years later, there are 24 Mary’s Mountain Cookies shops from coast-to-coast.

Mary gave Becky here blessing to launch a branch in Sioux Falls. The McElroy’s found a perfect storefront location at a then-brand-new condo-and-retail building called The Cascade, at the entrance to Falls Park.

The bakery opened on December 10, 2021, in the midst of rising Covid-19 numbers, but post-vaccine, when, compared to the year before, more families and groups were getting together and not just comfortable to be out and about, but eager.

“It’s just fun to see everybody, especially after the last couple years of craziness that we’ve had,” Becky said. “Everybody’s getting back out and about, enjoying the time together, experiencing new things.”

The flocks of merry revelers have only increased a year later, and with Papa Woody’s pizza and Severance Brewing on the bottom retail floor of The Cascade, the hot spots for drinking, dining and dessert-ing have mutually helped out each place. The McElroy’s have become friends with the other business owners.

And things have certainly lit up since the mesmerizing lighting of the expanse of trees and large buildings — and even the waterfalls — at Falls Park, otherwise known as “Winter Wonderland.” The inaugural weekend, coinciding with the annual “Parade of Lights” festival on Black Friday, meant jam-packed crowds at The Cascade storefronts.

“Usually, groups of people, they’re going out for dinner, drinks, pizza, and they want a sweet treat, some cookies for the car ride,” Becky said.

But some can’t wait for the end of their evenings. For the Parade of Lights, vehicles in front of Mary’s were bumper-to-bumper for long stretches, leaving some passengers to get out of their running cars, grab a batch of cookies, and have the drivers pick them up later.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Becky said of the busy nights. “Usually, there’s a lot of energy and the staff keeps it lively.”

Mary’s Mountain Cookies aren’t just for a night out or a trip to the shop. They make for crowd-pleasing Christmas presents — from boxes of big ones to party trays of little ones.

Some boxes come with six sugar cookies left for the consumers to decorate themselves, with a tube of frost and a couple of small containers of red-and-green sprinkles — a way to celebrate Christmas culinary creativity without having to jump through every hoop of baking from scratch.

The party trays contain 60, one-ounce cookies, with some of Mary’s most popular of their 21 flavors.

Holiday cookies for sale include the frosted-and-sprinkled sugar cookies (already made by staff, if you prefer), holiday M&M’s (with red and green milk chocolate bits, of course), and molasses cookies.

You can order Mary’s Mountain Cookies by calling the shop at (605) 275-0060, or emailing them at info@siouxfallscookies.com. Their Facebook page is a helpful guide, as is the company’s national website or the local version, https://marysmountaincookies.com/sioux-falls-sd/.

Anyone who buys a batch for their family is guaranteed the cookies don’t just taste spectacular, but are made with genuine family love.

Besides spending more time with her mom, what does Brenna love most about making and selling cookies?

”You just get to make people happy by scooping dough and putting it in the oven,” Brenna said.