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Today is March 30, 2020

Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory

A good business idea leaves a lasting legacy for Yerger family

By Elissa Fulton

Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory

“Made in America” showcase at the White House. Robbie and Hunter Yerger visit with Vice President Mike Pence.

Most of us wish for that one good business idea — the idea that will put us on the map. When a decades-long career in foodservice was winding down, Mary Margaret Yerger knew she had a good idea that could put her on the map. She had worked in school cafeteria food service for many years and was responsible for feeding more than 5,000 students in Yazoo City every day.

After Yerger lost her husband, she had to support her five young children. She began working as cafeteria manager for Saint Clara’s Catholic School, and after a number of years, moved to the public school system as food service supervisor. She maintained a catering business in addition to her day job. One of her signature party items was her delicious cheese straws.

In 1989, Yerger had the idea to start a business selling her cheese straws as a retirement project and asked two of her sons, Hunter and Robbie, to join her. They went to work researching, creating a business plan and finding the appropriate commercial-grade equipment. And Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory was born!

While the first year was challenging, the family was making sales and cheese straws out of Mrs. Yerger’s kitchen by November 1991.

“The first person we made contact with was Carol Daily who at that time owned Everyday Gourmet in Jackson, and she bought the first production,” said Hunter. “After that, we began to sell to gift and drug stores primarily in the Mississippi area. In that first two-month period during the Christmas season, we sold nearly $100,000 worth of cheese straws we made in mother’s kitchen.”

Within a few months, as sales flourished, the Yergers moved the business into a 400-square-foot building near Mrs. Yerger’s home, and within another year to downtown Yazoo City where they built their first production plant. Mrs. Yerger worked a few more years before retiring for good, with her sons assuming ownership of the business. Hunter now serves as president and CEO and oversees planning, marketing, product development and business aspects while Robbie, vice president and general manager, oversees the day-to-day production and operations.

Today, from their 35,000-square-foot location on Eighth Street, the company manufactures a variety of cheese straws and flavored cookie straws, as well as baked goods for large brands distributed all across the United States. The company ships to and sells products in all 50 states.

This year, the company was invited to represent the State of Mississippi at the White House for the annual “Made in America” product showcase and met Vice President Mike Pence. The exhibitors were able to listen to a speech from President Donald Trump and watch as he signed an executive order mandating a higher percentage of “Made in America” products for federal procurement.

“This was such a fantastic experience,” said Hunter. “We are truly honored to have been a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent our company and our state. We have been truly blessed and gratified, especially to the people of Mississippi, to have been able to bring mother’s idea to life. We’ve learned many things along the way and are truly just a 28-year overnight success.”

Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory products are bringing joy to consumers across the state and beyond, thanks to a good idea, a long-term vision and years of hard work.

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