For Monica Urick, creating over-the-top – and often deep fried – concoctions is just another day in the office.
As CEO of Urick Concessions, the Carmel resident and her team dream up unique recipe ideas throughout the year and gather each spring to test them out as potential new offerings to sell at the Indiana State Fair, their biggest event of the year.
“People have stopped at the gas station on the way in (to test recipes) to buy their favorite snacks, like Little Debbie’s or Ho Ho’s ro Ding Dongs to be like, ‘Let’s dip it in funnel cake mix and fry it and see what happens,’” Monica said. “We’ve thrown everything in the fryer. If you dip it in funnel cake mix and fry it, it just makes everything better. We’ve tried everything. Some are not successful.”
That would include the Buffalo Chicken Bomb, a coated spicy chicken salad meatball that Monica said – much to her disappointment – was an “absolute disaster” that fell apart in the fryer. But since debuting at the fair more than a decade ago, Urick Concessions has racked up its fair share of hits, including three voted as the event’s top treat: deep-fried pizza, deep-fried bananas foster cheesecake on a stick and corn fritters.
This year four Urick Concessions creations are among 30 new offerings selected by the fair as Fair Food Favorites, quite a feat for a company that – according to Monica – grew large enough to become the primary year-round food vendor of the fairgrounds by “accident.”
Before launching Urick Concessions, Monica, a native of Connecticut, was a district manager with clothing store The Limited, where she specialized in high-volume retail. After moving to Indiana, she and her husband, Jerry Urick, opened a window coverings business in Fishers that they ran together for several years before selling it.
That’s when they decided to give the concessions business a try, as Jerry’s aunt and uncle had operated a few food trailers, including one that sold apple dumplings at the Indiana State Fair. The Uricks bought their first trailer from them.
“We started (working) little shows, and as entrepreneurs saw the opportunity to grow. I thought it would be just a fun little side hustle, but we don’t really know how to do anything small,” Monica said. “It really wasn’t the plan to be as big as we are now.”
While operating a concession trailer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Uricks saw the success of other vendors and realized their new endeavor had full-time potential. The business grew as they branched to Grand Park in Westfield, Conner Prairie in Fishers and took on additional responsibilities at the state fairgrounds.
Now, Urick Concessions focuses almost exclusively on the fairgrounds, where it manages the food offerings in most buildings year-round and operates the catering services. Urick Concessions also participates in the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, CarmelFest and, when their schedule allows, other community events in Monica and Jerry’s hometown.
“We love the community, so we support all the Carmel events,” Urick said.
‘A good, happy memory’
As Urick Concessions has grown, so has its team of employees. Founded in 2000 by Monica, Jerry and Jerry’s brother, Bill Urick, it’s grown to include a full-time staff of approximately 16 employees, 60 permanent part-time employees up to 100 total employees for some events.
Bill’s children, William Urick II and Corey Urick Page, had to stand on milk crates when they started helping out with the family business as kids, Monica said. They’re now among the full-time staffers, working behind the scenes between events and, like Monica, contributing wherever needed during the state fair.
Urick Page, who handles human resources and marketing for Urick Concessions, enjoys being able to tap into her creative side at work (she came up with the idea for Wicked Chicken N Waffles, a new offering this year), but her favorite part of the job is connecting with her coworkers.
“Our full-time team is amazing, and they’re some of my closest friends,” Urick Page said. “Our part-time staff is incredible, too.”
Some of the bonding occurred during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdowns and event cancellations left Urick Concessions employees without much to do. To keep the full-time staff employed, Monica, Jerry and Bill returned to their roots in the window covering business, opening Window Fashion & Decor on Station Drive in Carmel and tasked former Urick Concessions employees with helping to prepare the space and get it running.
“Everybody worked here. Our cooks became painters,” Monica said. “They knocked down walls just to keep everybody working.”
As pandemic restrictions lifted, most Urick employees transitioned back to their previous roles, with Jerry and Bill remaining primarily with the window covering business. Monica is involved in it, too, but focuses most of her energy on running Urick Concessions. Now, instead of a side hustle, Monica considers her concessions business as an opportunity to leave a legacy.
“When I was a kid, I remember (repeatedly) going to (an Italian ice vendor), and it’s such a good, happy memory,” she said. “I want to be that place that you bring your kids to, and then when they’re 35 years old they’re bringing their kids and going back to the same place to get elephant ears because it was so good.”
Learn more at UrickConcessions.com.
2023 Fair Food Favorites by Urick Concessions
Urick Concessions has four of its new items featured on the Indiana State Fair’s Fair Food Favorites list.
Bratchoes – Tortilla chips topped with a sizzling bratwurst, creamy hatch queso, zesty jalapeños, fire roasted salsa, and a dollop of sour cream.
Gimme S’more Bourbon Shake – A summer staple, but as a boozy milkshake with the help of Hotel Tango’s Shmallow Toasted Marshmallow Bourbon. Creamy vanilla ice cream, milk, and Shmallow Bourbon blended together and topped with the classic s’mores essentials.
Nutellaphant Ear – Fried dough slathered with Nutella and topped with strawberries, bananas and powdered sugar.
Wicked Chicken N Waffles – A hot take on the classic chicken and waffles, this dish features chicken tenders sandwiched between two waffles drenched in Mike’s Hot Honey and topped with crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
The Indiana State Fair is open Wednesdays through Sundays through Aug. 20 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Learn more at IndianaStateFair.com.