Editorial: Ripon's 'cookie lady' hangs up her apron

MARY JO NEGUS has been at the Rippin’ Good Cookies Outlet Store since it opened 34 years ago this month. Friday will be her last day at the city’s No. 1 tourist attraction. Tim Lyke photo

Mary Jo Negus will turn out the lights at the Rippin’ Good Cookies Outlet Store for the last time on Friday at 4:30 p.m. ... After more than a third of a century, the store’s supervisor now will limit her cookie transactions to grocery stores and the Girl Scouts. That’s assuming she can stay away from her former employer, which is doubtful.

Mary Jo has been with the store all 34 of its years — since June 1980, when the Bumby family decided to sell its product directly to the public via packs, by the case (12 retail packages) and in bulk (where else can you get 16 pounds of chocolate-striped cookies for less than $10?)

Under Mary Jo’s leadership, the Rippin Good Cookies Outlet Store has become Ripon’s No. 1 tourist attraction, drawing more individual visitors and motorcoach tours than the famed birthplace of the Republican Party just a few blocks away. The store sells cookies but gives away free samples, directions and smiles.

... Mary Jo is more than the supervisor of the outlet store. She’s been its heart and soul, donating cookies to help community causes, charities, fund-raisers, Ripon College and public school students, festivals, benefits and any effort that might help those who could use a sweet boost (while drawing goodwill toward her employer).

... Mary Jo’s most memorable customers have names less prominent. “One of my favorite memories will be the young parents who bring their children to visit the outlet store, as they remember doing during their own childhoods,” she said.

Mary Jo and her employer have realized that generosity within the home community helps create pride among employees, which leads to exceptional quality and sound positioning for the company as a manufacturer of its own brand as well as private-label cookies.

... Ed Bumby sold the company in 1999 to the Bremner division of Ralcorp Holdings, which sold it in January 2013 to ConAgra Foods. Since then, ConAgra has been a remarkably good corporate citizen, embracing the notion of Ripon being “Cookietown U.S.A.” with human resources generalist Samantha Pamperin serving on the board of directors of Ripon’s annual summer celebration of America’s favorite dessert, the family-oriented Cookie Daze festival.

So while Mary Jo prepares to leave the happiest store in Ripon, she can depart with a smile on her face knowing that the Rippin’ Good generosity — of spirit and product — that she and many others helped create and nurture remains in good hands.

—Tim Lyke

To read the entire editorial, see the June 19, 2014 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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