Mariah Vitoria is 24 years old, and she is about to retire.
The Hilmar entrepreneur, owner of Mariah’s Fair Treats and vendor at the Stanislaus County Fair for the third year in a row, specializes in making sweets that don’t seem to go together.
A funnel cake and a bacon cheeseburger? Absolutely. Ice cream and donuts? Naturally, as if the two had been waiting for the pairing ever since their respective creations.
The latter treat was featured on the show “Carnival Eats,” the former a unique creation that Vitoria hasn’t seen duplicated anywhere.
The ice cream donut sandwich is easy enough. Bake fresh donuts, roll them in cinnamon and sugar, stuff them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and finish it off with a caramel drizzle.
But the funnel cake burger is a beast of a different kind, one to be feared by health freaks and respected by fair patrons with one thing on their minds: shameless indulgence. Everything is made in the trailer. No frozen patties, no ingredients shipped in for convenience, no extraneous additions to muddy up the flavor. It’s a simple recipe, but it works. An all-beef patty, cheddar cheese, and sizzling bacon, with a funnel cake instead of a boring bun. But the secret weapon, usually associated with waffles and pancakes, pushes it over the edge.
“We put maple syrup on top and that makes it just amazing. It’s so freaking good!” Vitoria says.
Though she now has four booths at the fair—one funnel cake, one slushie, and two Dippin’ Dots—she started out with only a mini-donut fryer, a red tent and a desire for expansion.
While most her age were snapchatting at clubs and guzzling overpriced drinks, Vitoria began selling her mini-donuts at the Turlock Farmers Market.
To fund her new enterprise, she sold three cars that she had won through her skills as a sweepstaker. She would win texting challenges on radio stations like KHOP, which got her American Express gift cards, concert tickets, electronics, trips to places like New York, Texas, Vegas, and even tickets to the Grammys. She would complete online sweepstakes which involved essays and photo submissions and it was there that she won the big prizes, such as the cars and a $10,000 cash prize.
Last year, she quit the sweepstakes game, but is grateful for the experiences it afforded her.
“It gave me a taste of things I wasn’t able to experience otherwise, like traveling and helicopter rides. But it’s not quite worth my time anymore,” she says.
After about six months of selling her donuts at farmers’ markets and festivals, she decided that if she wanted to turn her hobby into a business, she would need a concession trailer and an expanded menu.
She soon purchased a trailer, dropped out of Stanislaus State (where she studied business), and put all her time and energy into the sweet treats. A year and a half later, she met a man named Ron Whiting and their partnership allowed her to broaden her reach to include slushies and Dippin’ Dots.
This year will be her last at the Stanislaus County Fair, and after a 10-day appearance at the Antelope Valley Fair in Lancaster in August, she plans to sell the trailer and move on to the next chapter in her life.
She has thoroughly enjoyed giving sweet tooths like her an opportunity to satisfy their urges, and the local support she gets from the fair and the citizens has been great, but she’s gotten tired of all the other headaches that come with running a business.
“This (concession business) is tough. It’s not a fun time to be an employer in California,” she says. Not only is the increasing minimum wage on her mind, but it is difficult to build up and sell for profit in this industry because there is a drop-off in value over time.
Also, there are a lot of variables that must be accounted for, and cumulatively they can amount to a heavy burden. There is properly staffing the booths (she currently has 12 employees), getting hard to acquire supplies, dealing with waste management and riding the fluctuations of fickle fair revenues. One year can be solid, the next average, and it is not a steady game by any stretch.
But she is bright, perceptive well beyond her years, and has an acute sense of what works and what doesn’t.
Which is why, after the trailer is sold—she will be happy to get $40,000 for it—she plans to have a lot of success investing in bitcoin and trading cryptocurrency, which will allow her to work from anywhere in the world. Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency, and as the website cryptocoinsnews.com explains, it consists of “electricity converted into lines of code with monetary value.”
She believes this is where currencies are headed and, as she says, if you “be aware, do your research, and educate yourself,” it is not a bad way to go.
Aside from her future in investment, the end of her sweet treat run looms large in her mind. After she sheds the skin of her current life, there awaits a list of exotic sights: the majestic temples of Thailand, the geothermal pools and geysers of Iceland, and a return trip to Terceira Island in the Azores, one of a cluster of nine volcanic islands off the coast of Portugal.
For now, the Stanislaus County Fair retains her focus. And if you’re fantasizing about inhaling a funnel cake bacon cheeseburger or an ice cream donut sandwich, donut wait. Stop by the booth in the Kid’s Zone and try one. I sure will. Other than a little self-control, what have we got to lose?