Aricka Hilton has a sweet spot for cookies.
And it’s a good thing, too.
On March 25, she and husband Michael opened Crumbl Cookies in Dubuque’s Warren Plaza, 3500 Dodge St., No. 202.
Since then, it has remained a popular draw for tri-state residents eager to sample the establishment’s sizable sweet treats.
A franchise founded in 2017 in Logan, Utah — and one of the nation’s fastest-growing bakery chains with more than 500 stores in 36 states — the store is known for its rotating menu of gourmet cookies and ice cream.
It’s one of the things that drew Hilton to the company.
“I come from a marketing background, so I loved how clean, simple and connective their outreach was,” she said. “I also loved the idea of the rotating menu. Nobody knows what the cookies will be from week to week, not even us. It builds a lot of excitement and engagement around the business. It’s like a subscription model. It keeps people coming back.”
The Dubuque location, which employs between 70 and 80 workers, marks Crumbl’s third in Iowa, alongside Ankeny and Cedar Rapids. The Hiltons plan to open a Crumbl in Iowa City.
Upon its opening in Dubuque, patrons eager to sample the sweet treats in the pink box frequently could be seen lining up around the corner of the building.
“There were many nights I just didn’t get a lot of sleep,” Hilton said, with a laugh. “There still are a lot of nights like that. It’s not always unusual for me to go home at 4 or 5 in the morning, doing the same kind of work as our employees — mopping the floor.”
Hilton’s work ethic was well-ingrained.
The youngest of five, the 29-year-old said she and her siblings “lucked out” in having the role models of hard-working parents.
“We learned that when you work hard, good things come,” she said. “That doesn’t mean there is never failure or that it’s not hard. But with grit, hunkering down and persistence, things get done. Part of the reason we’re working so hard, so early is to build the foundation the life we want for our family.”
Originally from Ventura, Calif., Hilton first put her work ethic to use at Brigham Young University in Utah, studying public relations and business, and beginning her career in sports marketing.
She later worked in finance, then found a passion in the wellness industry before working as a consultant for startup companies and engaging in social media marketing.
That’s where Hilton stumbled into Crumbl’s franchising opportunity.
“Crumbl was founded in Utah, so I was familiar with it,” she said. “I had always loved everything about the business and the branding and had an entrepreneurial passion. And I loved the cookies and that they were big enough to split with a friend. Franchising seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
With two of her brothers nearby in Iowa City, Hilton and her husband — who also is from the West Coast — decided on Dubuque as their ideal location for Crumbl to continue establishing its roots.
“It seemed like a great place to raise our family, where we could have a lot of space and really live and grow, and it truly has been,” she said. “That Iowa Nice is a real thing.”
Hilton and Michael are parents to a 6-year-old son.
When not dedicating time to Crumbl, the family enjoys spending time outdoors or on the water, in addition to building forts in their living room for family movie nights.
“When you work hard, you have to play hard,” Hilton said. “We’ll also catch something on Netflix or order pizza if it has been a long day.”
Approximately six months into the new franchise venture, Hilton said she couldn’t be happier or prouder of what her family is helping to build or its community outreach.
Made fresh daily, leftover Crumbl Cookies frequently are donated to organizations through the community that are making a difference.
“It has been very validating,” she said of the success of the business. “We put a lot of our blood, sweat and tears into it. As a business owner, you invest so much of yourself and your funding into it. We hope that people who come into the store feel a place of welcoming. So, to be so welcomed and accepted in the community has been awesome. The grind has definitely been worth it.”
Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.