BROOKFIELD, Wis. -- V. Richard's here makes Milwaukee's best brownies.
That's according to results of a contest sponsored recently by The Milwaukee Journal, a daily newspaper.
In a quest for the best brownie in town, the paper conducted a blind taste test of 35 brownies from 20 sources in Milwaukee and its suburbs. When the results were in, V. Richard's basic brownie took the cake.
For the single-unit, upscale retailer, that's been good news all the way around.
Brownie sales zoomed 500% the weekend after the brownie made the front cover of the newspaper's food section. And in the succeeding weeks, sales have continued to remain at 50% above the same period the previous year, said Freddi Rodgers, V. Richards bakery production manager. The store is selling over 200 brownies a day, she said.
"The first day after the story ran in the paper we didn't know what was happening. Our front-end people kept coming to the back to say they had sold out of brownies. We had to put people on overtime to make more," Rodgers said.
She explained that while V. Richard's knew it was one of the contenders, the retailer wasn't told it had won nor when the story about the winners would be published.
When asked if winning the contest was a surprise to her, Rodgers said, "no."
"It's an excellent brownie," she said of the made-from-scratch product, which she developed.
Rodgers attributes the winning qualities of V. Richard's brownies, which retail for $1.09 each, to the use of all natural ingredients and a particular national brand of chocolate that "gives them such an intense chocolate flavor."
"We're very proud. It's particularly nice since this isn't something we were seeking out," said Elizabeth Little, president of V. Richard's.
The store has kept the sales pace going since the contest this summer by making sure customers know about it. A laminated copy of the news story, which shows a picture of the brownie alongside a trophy, has a place on top of the bakery counter along with a sign that says, "Milwaukee's Best Brownie." Just this month, the store has been alerting telephone callers who get placed on hold that it is home to the area's best brownie.
The Milwaukee Journal did not tell any of the contestants that they would be part of a brownie taste test. A newspaper staff member simply went out to 20 establishments and bought brownies for the test.
There were two categories: basic brownie and gourmet brownie. V. Richard's gourmet brownie was in the tasting but was beaten by an independent bakery's espresso cheesecake brownie.