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Head Trip 

The student owners of Hungry Headies make money off the munchies

click to enlarge 250-food-heady-cookies.jpg

It’s just after midnight, and a late-night snack is in order. Downtown has some decent options: You can order from Big Daddy’s Pizza, head over to Kountry Kart Deli for a Rise & Shiner, or maybe grab a falafel at Ahli Baba’s Kabob Shop. Or, you can have fresh, homemade chocolate-chip cookies delivered to your doorstep.

A love of sweets and some entrepreneurial flair went into the creation of Hungry Headies, a late-night cookie-delivery service. Founders Greg Ramey and Wyatt Fowler, both community entrepreneurship majors at the University of Vermont, started the company on a whim. They began making cookies to satisfy their own nocturnal snacking needs and thought maybe others would be interested, too.

After UVM’s 2010 spring break, the pair put up posters — as a joke, they say, since they weren’t sure they’d have any takers. Little did they realize that nighttime cookie demand in Burlington was, well, high.

“We didn’t have hours when we first started,” Ramey says. “I had people calling me at 4 o’clock in the morning asking for cookies, and I was, like, ‘I need to sleep, man.’”

After the posters brought them their first orders, the two nascent businessmen set some official hours: Thursday through Saturday, delivery begins at 10 p.m. and continues until 3 in the morning. After just a few weeks, Ramey and Fowler had gained some very loyal customers. “A friend of a friend told me about it, and I’ve been all over it,” says UVM senior Aaron “AJ” Kasen. “How can you not like cookie-delivery service fresh to your door?”

Ramey and Fowler make sure the goods are fresh by whipping up a batch of 200 cookies from scratch at about 8 p.m. in the basement of their fraternity, Sigma Phi. If they run out, they make more — sometimes 600 cookies in a night.

Fowler, Ramey says, is the mind behind the cookies. His love of cooking is one of the reasons the guys started baking in the first place. They kept tweaking Fowler’s recipe and feeding the test runs to their fraternity brother and to high school buddy Ax Hayssen.

“I was one of the main testers,” Hayssen says. “I probably tasted 100 cookies.” Poor guy.

After two weeks of having their treats turn out too gooey or too dense, the duo had an “aha” moment. Now, with just the right balance of chips to batter, their cookies have the perfect consistency. Hayssen raves about them: “I’m a big cookie person,” he says. “I put [Hungry Headies cookies] on the same level as Oreos and milk, and that’s saying something.” Hayssen encourages customers to ask for milk with their cookies.

At first, moo juice was on the menu every night, but, Ramey says, people were too picky about whether it was skim, whole or 1 percent. Now, he and Fowler bring along a gallon jug of milk on their delivery rounds and pour out some if customers ask nicely and pay a couple of dollars extra. Other add-ons are energy drinks and Hungry Headies chocolate syrup (i.e., Hershey’s syrup with “Hungry Headies” written all over the bottle).

The head Hungry Heads keep their customers updated on specials and other events via Facebook and Twitter. They even have a competition for the “Hungriest Head of the Week,” which is more about enthusiasm than the number of cookies consumed. “We’ve had people with vomit on them order. It gets pretty rowdy,” Ramey says. “You can always tell when someone is competing to be Hungriest Head.” The winner gets a featured photo on the Hungry Headies Facebook page.

The owners have stories galore. Ramey’s favorite is about the time somebody requested delivery to the South Burlington McDonald’s. At first he and Fowler thought the Mickey D’s staff had the munchies, but they got blank looks at the front counter, and eventually found their customers sitting at a table.

Far-flung deliveries like that one aren’t rare. While Hungry Headies originally targeted campus-dwelling UVM students, Ramey and Fowler say most of their cookies end up in downtown Burlington.

The cookies aren’t available during the summer, but the arrival of the fall semester means Hungry Headies will reopen in full force: Students and townies alike will be able to order packs of a half-dozen cookies for $5, a dozen for $9, or two dozen for $16. The owners have plans to expand, too; they’re in the process of making T-shirts, relocating their kitchen and searching for a pro skier to represent them. They’re even sponsoring rapper Wiz Khalifa’s concert at UVM in the fall.

Despite all the time and effort the service takes to manage, Ramey and Fowler have fun. “It doesn’t really feel like work. [It’s] like a party, delivering cookies,” Ramey says.

Hayssen chimes in. “[Hungry Heads] are people who enjoy life ... and want good cookies to complement their good life,” he says. “If you are a Hungry Heady, you are hungry for cookies and a whole lot more.”

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