City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Grinning Ear to Beer

A Collaboration Between Fishers Foods and Royals Docks Puts a Familiar Face in an Unfamiliar Place

Article by Chris Watson

Photography by Terry Fravel

Originally published in Canton Lifestyle

Local institution Fishers Foods has persevered for 88 years under the care and guidance of the Fisher family, and fourth generation Alex Fisher is implementing fresh, modern ideas to push the grocer ahead of the curve. Each succession revitalizes the store, a large part of why it’s endured for so long.

“We’re always engaged,” says Alex. “We live and work here. We continue to forge ahead and do things differently.”

He’s been updating the store with features like a robust online shopping platform, collaborating with services like DoorDash and Instacart to provide delivery and modernizing inventory with more specialized food options for those with certain food restrictions or lifestyle choices. He also has a project in the works to reboot Fishers’ iconic smiley face cookie in a way that will appeal to adults who grew up with the grinning treat.

As a family-owned business, Fishers Foods has been a part of Alex’s life as far back as he can remember. He recalls his mother bringing home the bright yellow cookies and being tempted by those hand-cut, freshly made treats dipped in homemade icing and topped with a secret recipe triple-chocolate fudge.

“You see those smiles and suddenly you’re tugging on mom’s shirt saying, ‘Can I have that? Can I have that?’ And when you get it, it’s such a bite.”

He’s heard enough stories from customers and community members to know that countless Cantonians feel similar nostalgia. While new generations of children make memories of the cookies, Alex wanted to fuse this symbol with his own passion for unique craft brews. He teamed up with Royal Docks Brewing Co. and Brewmaster Dave Sutula to craft a Smiley Face Cookie Ale. He says it’s a great way to bring that childhood magic back to an adult shopping in the store.

“I wanted to take it to the next level and bring some of those memories back. It’s for the locals who grew up enjoying the cookie. They might still grab a cookie from time to time, but now they’ll be able to grab a six pack,” says Alex.

The relationship between Royal Docks and Fishers Foods is long and special. Alex, as a craft brew aficionado and supporter of brewery startups, purchased the first kegs out of Royal Docks for the bar at the Fishers location on Fulton Road. He was also their first packaged product customer in 2016. But the history extends beyond that. John Bikis, owner of Royal Docks, worked through high school as a bagger at Fishers Foods and was one of the recipients of the Jack B. Fisher Scholarship, a fund set up in Alex’s grandfather’s name.

Dave says this big blonde beer tops out around 7% ABV. It’s sweet, but not a dessert beer. It walks the line between complimenting the cookie and emulating it. Salted caramel and biscuit malts indicate baked goods, vanilla bean and cacao nibs echo the frosting and fudge, and a tower of genuine smiley face cookies added directly to the brew ensures an authentic flavor. What’s more, the beer uses almost entirely local ingredients and labeling, so it’s truly a celebration of a Canton superstar.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to serve Stark County for so many generations,” says Alex. “My grandfather believed we needed to try to bring smiles to our customers’ faces every day, and I think a fun project like this can do that.”

The Smiley Face Cookie Ale is expected to be released in mid-October 2021. However, beer drinkers aren’t the only ones who can show some love for the little yellow guys. Alex plans to make exclusive cookie swag like hoodies and stickers available so anyone can proclaim their fandom to the world. He also says to watch for more big things coming to Fishers.

“I may not be able to disclose everything now, but there’s a lot coming and I’m very excited for the future.”