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DeRusha Eats: T-Rex Cookie Café

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- From data analyst and corporate IT worker to cookie entrepreneur. It's not exactly the normal path, but there's little normal about the career path of Tina Rexing.

"I would always bake cookies, bake cakes and feed to my colleagues. They would ask, 'Why aren't you doing this for a living?' There's no money in it that's whym" Rexing said.

But after 17 years competing and winning ribbons in her spare time at the Minnesota State Fair, and entering her 40s, she decided it was time to make a dinosaur-sized leap.

"I think I needed a little freedom just to see if I could do it," Rexing said.

Taking her competitive tennis nickname "T-Rex" (Tina Rexing) and her desire to bake cookies, T-Rex Cookies was born.

"I think I would be kicking myself if I were 80 sitting in a rocking chair wondering if I could have done it," she said.

Tina originally sold half-pound cookies alongside smaller cookies at the Minneapolis farmers market.

"I found out that people only wanted the giant ones," she said.

After gaining attention with the market, U.S. Bank Stadium invited her to sell cookies in the suites and club areas. Demand kept growing, so she opened a cookie cafe on the border of Minneapolis and St. Paul along Metro Transit's light rail line.

Success because of an effective brand, a giant size and delicious flavor.

"It's one thing to have a unique concept, but another to have a unique concept that can hold its weight. No pun intended," said Rexing.

If the half-pound cookies aren't big enough, she's created a five-pound, $40 cookie, popular at weddings and corporate events. She's selling so many cookies online, wholesale and in the café, she's already outgrowing her cookie kitchen.

Her top seller is sea salt caramel chocolate chip, but caramel Oreo is a close second, she said. She does sugar cookies, s'mores cookies -- on any given day she has 15-20 varieties available.

"Oatmeal raisin is very controversial. It's very polarizing," said Rexing, who said she's not a big chocolate fan and is partial to the snickerdoodle cookie.

The large size also helps maintain moisture, she said, noting that she freezes the 8-ounce dough balls before baking them.

"I use dark brown sugar -- that helps maintain moisture as well," she said.

Rexing has learned to hustle, as she said building her own brand is very different from her says working in corporate.

"I really have to prove myself," she said.

Because her café is in a neighborhood, she also sells food: rice bowls with a stew on top that changes weekly, soups, salads and grilled panini sandwiches too.

"This has become a gathering space," she said, with shelves of retail items from other small Twin Cities entrepreneurs. "It's been a challenge. Sometimes you meet people they don't take you as seriously. Because the only thing I make is 'a cookie.'"

Rexing is trying to prove that hard work and a delicious product mean T-Rex Cookie has little chance of going extinct.

"If this is your passion and you really love doing it: go and do it," she said.

T-Rex Cookie Café
3338 University Avenue SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414

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