FAIR PARK (CBSDFW.COM) – The State Fair of Texas is big business for some of its most well-known vendors.
Every year the list of outlandish concoctions grows: fried lemonade, fried-grilled cheese, fried s’mores, fried Coca-Cola.
Each of those delicacies is a draw for a hungry visitor looking to sample some of the finest fried food Texas has to offer.
Vendors who compete and win in the Big Texas Choice Awards competition get an added boost of PR.
That’s why family operations, like Stiffler Brothers concessions, works year-round to come up with new creations and perfect the business model for selling.
“We’re kind of carnies at heart. We’re obsessed with it, actually,” said Tammy Stiffler.
Her family-run operation has been a presence at the state fair since the 1970s. Nine years ago, Tammy and her husband took over the family business and began investing more time and creative energy into it.
Stiffler Brothers operates two booths at this year’s fair. Their fried lemonade, fried s’mores, and fried taste-of-autumn pumpkin pie were all finalists in past Big Tex Choice competitions.
“You’re talking $100,000 difference in your bottom line, in the difference in being in the Top 8 versus not being in the Top 8 every year,” said Tammy.
Tammy estimates Stiffler Brothers will earn nearly $500,000 in the 24 days of the State Fair of Texas.
What’s more, a fair spokesperson says another four to five vendors annually make over $1 million in the short time period.
“It’s hard work, bottom line. This is probably the hardest work we do,” said Stiffler.
The fair may only last three and a half weeks, but for many vendors, preparation begins months in advance. Stiffler Brothers employ about 38 seasonal workers.
For the operators, the days are 16 hours long. Tammy and her husband, Rick, will stay in a mobile home on-site throughout the fair.
“You have to have really good customer service. You’ve got to have your product ready,” said Stiffler.
For approximately half of the 178 vendors, working the fair is their only job. Last year, fair-goers spent $37 million on coupons.
Demanding work, Tammy says, that pays off the rest of the year.
“The way we look at it is, it’s 24 days, and then we take off on vacation,” she says.
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