Meet “Real Good Cookies”


Claire Weltz, Sports Editor

Sarah Horak is the owner of Real Good Cookies, home of the official cookie of UND Athletics. Horak is originally from Beulah, North Dakota, and in her senior year of high school, she joined the ND Air National Guard. She earned her undergraduate degree in Financial Management, despite her deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During her college days, she met her husband Nick – then manager of Gilly’s – and began assisting with the bar.  

After the two graduated and were married, they gave their boss months’ notice as they began to seek career opportunities outside of Grand Forks. Horak recalls a phone interview during which the recruiter said that potential employees to “run it like they owned it.” The phrase stuck with Horak, and she realized that was how she and her husband were operating the several bars in downtown Grand Forks. This catalyzed a conversation about acquiring the three operations the two had worked for during their college years. As that business venture materialized over the years, Horak began working on her MBA at UND, and it was during finals week of her last semester that the deal went through.  

2020 was a tough year for many businesses. As the owners of multiple bars/restaurants and overseeing a slew of employees, the Horaks painfully closed their doors to comply with state regulation regarding COVID-19.  

“This can’t be it,” Horak thought to herself at the time. Brick & Barley (formerly Gilly’s) had a full kitchen, so the pair focused their energy there with a limited food menu of about 10 items. To make the most of the to-go only sales, they brainstormed ways that they could upsell; they added cookies to their list of available items – having previously offered cookies on the bar’s rotating dessert menu. The chocolate chip cookies soon became a customer favorite.  

With the limited staff, Horak handled phone to-go orders, and she remembers the first time someone called and only ordered cookies. “They just wanted cookies,” she told another employee.  

“No beer or anything else?” they asked.  

“No, only cookies.”  

Horak recruited her son Avery to help her come up with three flavors of cookies that Brick & Barley could offer to capitalize on the cookies’ popularity. They sold out within hours and continued to sell out week after week.  

“The cookies were born out of survival,” Horak commented. She assumed that when Brick & Barley reopened, the cookies would die out as the to-go orders died. She was wrong. The cookies kept selling, and she was able to use the kitchen at Brick & Barley during non-operating hours to continue baking. However, the demand was too much to use the kitchen for the cookies and the bar. She realized the need to separate the brand image of Brick & Barley from the cookies. 

Real Good Cookies got its name from Horak’s son Avery who she refers to as her “quality control.” As he was helping her test new recipes, he commented that “This is a real good cookie.” Horak liked the simplicity, and the name stuck.  

Today, Real Good Cookies has its own building and kitchen where several employees ranging from full to part time work. Cookies are sold several ways: local pickup, wholesale with vendors such as the Ralph Engelstad Arena, and online shipping. Real Good Cookies has sold over 70,000 cookies since its creation and has shipped to all 50 states.  

Fundraisers are another way to purchase Real Good Cookies. Horak reached out to Kelly Elementary School in Grand Forks to offer her company as a fundraising option and has since expanded to more non-profits. As of October 2021, Real Good Cookies has given back $25,000 back to the community.  

As a multi-graduate of UND, Horak also found a way to be a part of campus philanthropy. Real Good Cookies sponsors UND’s Junior Champions Club and is a vendor at football tailgating. In addition to this, Sweet Victory (a half pound cookie stuffed with a brownie, green and white sprinkles, and bittersweet chocolate chips) is the official cookie of UND Athletics and gives back a portion of each sale to support the University.  

Real Good Cookies also gives back to the community by sourcing its ingredients as locally as possible. Horak firmly believes ‘you get what you pay for,’ so she uses flour from The Mill and sugar from American Crystal Sugar. “Ingredients were never negotiable, we hope we make a product where it makes sense to charge $6 for a half pound cookie,” she stated. “The cookies are made locally and sourced from ingredients literally in our backyard.” 


Claire Weltz is a Dakota Student Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].