We are often asked about our story. How we got started, where we got our food trailer, and what it took to get our food trailer going. So here it is! The answers to the questions.
We lost everything in September of 2019, our home, jobs, and our car. We used our savings to buy a camper and our food trailer. This way we wouldn't be homeless and the food trailer was our plan for the future. We purchased our food trailer in Pueblo, Colorado from a private seller. We started collecting unemployment so we could take care of our kids and basic needs. Then we got started on our future.
We started by deciding what kind of menu we wanted. Funny thing is that a majority of the items never made it to the final menu we created. We were overly excited and ambitious, we needed to be realistic. We came up with a name, The Butcher's Kitchen. This name reflects a previous chapter in our lives. Dan was a butcher for a few years while Tracy was the office manager. (There were also butcher's in Dan's family.) We ate fresh meat and could never go back to the store bought stuff. It was only natural to serve food that we would eat ourselves. Our customers deserve the best! We then got our business license through the state and took off running from there.
The Transformation - Part 1
The food trailer was in rough shape. It came with a flat top, counters, lots of dirt, and layers upon layers of grease and paint. It was gross! We began by taking everything out of the trailer. We needed to start with a fresh, clean slate. Plus, we didn't need a lot of money to clean. Just a lot of time and elbow grease. Thankfully, we had tons of help and support from our family. There was no way we could get all of this done with just the two of us. They were right there with us during this whole process. We are beyond grateful for their help!
It took weeks to get this thing cleaned up. In the meantime, we started collecting small checks from unemployment. We took care of our kids and responsibilities first, whatever was left over went to the food trailer... our future. We started with the small, inexpensive fixes. We replaced the lights, one at a time, as our funds would allow. Bought a few small items here and there. It was going to take some time, money, and patience.
In November 2019, Tracy became very ill. For 3 weeks, she couldn't even begin to get out of bed. She slept a lot, barely ate, and needed help walking 3-5 steps to the restroom. We lived in a camper so it wasn't far, but she couldn't do it on her own. The doctor swore she had the flu. After testing, it was negative. The doctor's diagnosis? "We'll call it a respiratory infection", she said. (We now believe it was COVID-19) Tracy's sister and family also became ill. Our project stopped for the next month.
The holidays came and went, it was time to get back on track with out business venture. By this time, the pandemic was in full swing, and we were getting extra unemployment. This played a huge part if getting things done quickly.
The Transformation - Part 2
We bought new tires for the trailer, equipment (fryers, fridge), paint, and supplies. We took out all the screens, attempted to clean them, but ended up just replacing them. After 2-3 days, and cut up hands, all 23 screens were done! Finally! That really made a difference. We replaced the ceiling with FRP, an easy to clean surface that you find in walk in coolers and freezers. We purchased new tanks, since the original ones were rotted and falling apart. We painted the floors with a blue epoxy paint, (to keep with our red, white, and blue theme) which we later realized was a waste of time and money. We then moved onto the exterior of the food trailer. It was a red and white metal box with rust and chipping paint. We called around to find someone to paint and/or wrap it. It would be over $3,000 to paint it white! That's ridiculous! We finally came across Quantum Wraps, a local company. To save money, we needed to sand the whole thing down to prep it for being wrapped. Dan spent countless hours and many days sanding the food trailer down. Family helped out, which was huge! Things were coming along. (Finally)
Behind The Scenes
It was May/June 2020, the food trailer was ready to go. What's next? All the paperwork, permits, and licensing! The (not so) fun stuff. We had gotten a "food truck packet" from the health department back in September so we would have an idea of what needs to be done. Our next step was getting our business bank account, and start turning in paperwork. In this packet, there is a stack of papers with what needs to be done. BUT, you have to do them in a certain order. There was nowhere to tell us what order these things needed to be done. It was honestly, the most frustrating part of the process. Every application that was turned in had an application fee, then a fee to "purchase" the license/permit. It got expensive quick. The final step was the health department. It was the last week of June and we wanted to be open by 4th of July weekend. This was the most expensive and most important one of them all. The Health Inspection could stop us in our tracks. It could shut down our 10+ months of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. It was nerve wracking and terrifying. Yet, it was also the simplest. Thankfully, we had previously had an appointment with the health inspector so we would know what to expect and what we needed. We asked questions and felt confident when the time came. We passed and just had to wait for the documents to be emailed. We were set to go.
Our First Week
We officially opened Thursday, June 2, 2020. It was exciting, overwhelming, and chaotic. We had no idea what we were doing, what to expect, or how to run things. We stocked up on food and supplies, not knowing what we were going to need. Tracy's mom joined us as backup. The first 3 days went great. We had positive feedback about our food, we got our rhythm, and we were excited. But, of course, if anything can go wrong, it will. On Sunday, our 4th day open to the public, our water pump went out. We cannot be open without running water so we had to close. We installed a new one that following week.
We were recently asked "knowing what you know now, would you do it all over again?" Our answer.... in a heartbeat. The thing about the food truck business is that there is no one to tell you how to do things. What to expect, how much inventory to buy, etc.. We have to figure it out as we go because each food truck is different. We wouldn't change anything about our story because we have learned a lot about our business and ourselves in the past 18 months. We can only grow from here. We make changes as needed, we know we have to work extra hard during the winter months, but it pays off during spring and summer. We enjoy sharing our story, and food with others and advice to those looking into getting into the food truck industry. Our customers are what makes this possible for us. We get to live our dream because of our customers. For that, Thank you will never be enough!