Local food trucks slowly getting back up to speed

Local food trucks slowly getting back up to speed
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The Kuzmas, who own Linn Enterprises, switched to doing events that support a cause or a nonprofit during the pandemic, all across and even outside of Wayne County. They estimate they have donated $12,000-$13,000 to nonprofits since early April.

                        

Food trucks are a bit of an enigma. One minute they seem to be everywhere you look. Then suddenly, they’re nowhere to be found when you need one.

Why do people open food trucks? Where can you find them this summer? And, of course, how have they adapted during the pandemic? The following five food trucks service Wayne County and beyond.

Korasada - Korean BBQ & Taqueria

Kevin Cunningham started Korasada five years ago. “We were originally a gourmet hot dog truck, and one day we had local organic kimchi. Then we ran a special of Korean wonton tacos, then did the Korean bowls. It grew and took off,” he said. “We've always tested new and different things.”

Cunningham’s business has grown to the point that it’s not uncommon for them to get 150-200 customers on a single day. His goal is to eventually have a restaurant. “Even with many of our events being canceled this summer, we've had people drive over an hour to find us. We've built quite the customer base over the years,” he said.

Korasada has an upcoming event on June 27 at Ugly Bunny Winery in Loudonville from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for Bunnypalooza. It will be at the Village Gift Barn in Berlin on July 3. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

Flamingo Jack's

Gary McNeely started Flamingo Jack’s food truck in 2015 and within a few years was able to open his restaurant in Wooster. The food truck offers a smaller version of the restaurant menu, which features American-style Creole seafood dishes.

“When the pandemic first hit, we were almost completely booked for the whole season. All the graduation parties, rehearsal dinners, weddings, everything was canceled,” McNeely said.

McNeely was recently hired by Frito Lay as part of a giveback to their employees providing meals to all three shifts. “That event turned into a 20-hour shift instead of just a few hours," McNeely said. "That's fine since everyone was up to doing it, and they all need their hours.”

Things are starting to turn around. “Surprisingly, we're booked up pretty good through July. Graduation parties that were canceled have called back and rescheduled,” McNeely said.

And McNeely still has plans to start a second food truck that was purchased last summer. He was originally thinking to put it in a food truck park in Orrville but is now considering different locations.

Flamingo Jack's has upcoming events at a variety of locations including Blue Barn Winery in Wooster, Sunny Slope Winery in Big Prairie, and in Millersburg and Ashland. Refer to their Facebook page for more details.

Linn Enterprises

Ryan and Kelly Kuzma purchased Linn Enterprises from the Linn family (Kelly’s parents) in 2004. The Kuzmas now own nine concession trailers, ranging from lemonade, to gyros, to frozen yogurt.

Ryan Kuzma said when the stay-at-home order was issued, they lost almost 40 events. "Everything until the end of July. We basically had to rewrite the business plan,” he said. “We started setting up the trailers at the old Hawkins Market near Planet Fitness and have been there nearly permanently since April 1."

Kuzma said they've been partnering with nonprofits. “Everywhere we've gone so far I've partnered with a nonprofit or charity. We partnered with Mission Thrift and with Ashland Emergency Management. Another week it was Ashland YMCA, and we partnered with Camp Nuhop,” he said, adding the Kuzmas have probably donated $12,000-$13,000 back to the community since the end of March.

Linn Enterprises will be in Burbank on June 27 for Buckin’ Ohio. Then they will be in Wadsworth on July 4. Guidelines change every day, so check their Facebook page for updates.

Wack-E-Wontons and Notcho Totchos

Cory and Shannon Gray took over the Wack-E-Wontons business from Cory’s aunt, wanting to continue the family business. It also made sense because they had already been working in the industry and understood how it functioned.

“We have something unique, and we always try out new menu items. We have the option to change it daily with our daily specials,” Shannon Gray said. “Plus the food truck gives us the opportunity to travel — that way we can do festivals, campgrounds, catering for weddings.”

Once the stay-at-home order went into place, all the big events were canceled. However, the couple had already started the process of a second business: Notcho Totchos. They took advantage of the pause and pushed forward on this effort. Notcho Totchos can currently cater charity events and is just waiting for health board approval to open up the truck.

The businesses, Wack-E-Wontons and Notcho Totchos, each have their own Facebook pages, which you can follow for more information.

Umami Bites

Adam Schwieterman has owned Umami Bites since 2014.

“It’s a mix of Pan-Asian foods with a lot of Chinese influence — some Vietnamese, Thai and Malaysian mixes. We try to make foods that are good for festivals and finger food friendly,” Schwieterman said. “I've always had a travel bug that has been hard to ignore. I'm on the go and like to meet different people and learn about different cultures. In the last five years, we have been to 44 states.”

Schwieterman said during the pandemic they've been stifled economically. "We've been holding on, trying to figure out how to adapt,” he said.

Umami Bites is slowly gearing up to start events again, with four in the pipeline that had never canceled and then the Wayne County Fair in September. Umami Bites can be found on Instagram.

The top-three food truck myths busted

Myth one: The reason people open a food truck is because they think it will have a better profit margin than a restaurant.

Actually, it turns out none of the food truck owners above listed that as a top reason for buying a food truck. Rather, the reasons were quite diverse. People said they liked to travel and the food truck allowed them to maintain that lifestyle or that it was family-friendly and made childcare easier. Some liked the flexibility it offered their schedules, and many expressed an interest in cooking.

Myth two: Food trucks are a new trend that just popped up in the last 10 years.

Two of the businesses mentioned having taken on a family business that was around for years or even decades. There certainly has been a lot of media attention on food trucks in recent years. But their history is much longer, particularly if you include concession trailers. Concession trailers are what you may have seen at county fairs and are quite similar to food trucks, except they need to be pulled by another vehicle.

Myth three: Because food trucks are completely take-out meals, they weren’t impacted by the pandemic.

While food trucks are take-out, all of the food trucks listed here rely on a variety of events, ranging from weddings, to graduation parties, to fairs and festivals. Because all large gatherings were canceled for a couple months, this had an initial (and significant) negative impact on the food truck business. As things gear back up as the heart of summer approaches, Wayne County food trucks are slowly getting back up to speed.


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