Mark Andrew shares story about how he became a State Fair vendor

Mark Andrew was rejected a handful of times by the powers that be at the State Fair before they agreed to let him and his college girlfriend launch a stand selling s’mores in 1973.

While still a senior at Washburn High School, he pitched a plan to sell old fashioned ice cream sodas. It was rejected along with ideas he later proposed to sell watermelons, monster cookies and pure oxygen for $1. 

The State Fair stand ideas were part of a strategy for raising money for tuition at the University of Minnesota after his parents went through a divorce and money became tight, he said. He also raised money for college by planning dance parties with local bands around town with his brother and later driving a taxi cab.

Besides Real S’mores, Andrew also owns the World’s Greatest French Fries stand. He declined to disclose how much money he generates from the fair businesses, but he called it a substantial part of his income, which has covered his children’s tuition bills and vacations. “It’s not a get rich business,” he said, adding the stands are only open 150 hours a year. 

The focus this year will be on politics as Andrew will be promoting his campaign for mayor at two candidate forums at the State Fair — one moderated by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Larry Jacobs tomorrow at 2 p.m. and another by former MPR host Gary Eichten on Monday at noon.

Andrew can talk at length and in impressive technical detail about the intricacies of his French fries stand’s frying technique.

The skin-on fries are deep fried four times — a process that keeps them crunchy and less greasy, he said. His stand goes through about 60,000 pounds of potatoes during the fair.

Finding the best way to roast the marshmallows for the s’mores was also a laborious process because an open fire isn’t allowed. He tried charcoal grilling them, using an infrared heater and microwaving them before going with a toaster oven.

The s’mores were first sold for a quarter and now they go for $3.50.

He said he’s only missed two days of the fair since he was 19 because he attended the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. 

“The entrepreneurial side of my personality has been carried over to my political life,” he said. “I did a lot of creative things when I was at Hennepin County.”