So how are things going with your storefront?
We’ve gotten this question a lot recently. As you may remember, we announced back in February that we were trying to expand to a storefront. So much work has gone into this. We’ve written the business plan…and rewritten the business plan as things have changed…and tweaked the business plan as things changed again. We’ve contacted banks and alternative lenders. We’ve heard the word “no” a lot. We are finding that traditional banks are hesitant to loan to the food industry, especially one that has not been in business for two years, even with good credit (or even very good credit). While we don’t fully understand, we keep asking and we keep seeking creative ways to fund this venture.
The word “no” has not deterred us from the path we know God set us on. Perhaps things are just different than what we might have thought they would be. We are still working towards opening a storefront. That storefront may just have wheels on it. Yes, we are now in the process of getting a food truck. Even that has been more challenging than we have thought. (Note: the food truck was in the original business plan…it just came after the storefront as an expansion. Now, it’s the other way around.)
You see food trucks driving around, at festivals and farmers markets. Perhaps you’re like we were, and you think it must not be that difficult to get a food truck. We are finding, however, that it’s just as challenging as getting a storefront. Take all the requirements you’d have for a commercial kitchen, and place them on a mobile vehicle and a commissary. It’s no small financial hurdle either. Banks are still hesitant to loan money for food trucks.
So here’s where we are.
We have found the perfect food truck for our business. We have never seen one like this, and we think you will be so excited when you see it. We are working out the final terms, but think we have an option that will work for us to pay for the food truck and hope to have that finalized in the next couple of weeks.
You might think that’s it, right? Nope. We still need a commissary. Unless we are able to find somewhere that would allow us to use their business as a commissary (and we are not positive that is an acceptable option either), we will need to make modifications on our property to accommodate the truck itself, as well as to make the commissary meet requirements. If you’ve ever been to our house to pick up your order, you know that we have a couple of tight switchbacks in our driveway. (Our FedEx and UPS drivers love us.) We don’t think that this food truck will be able to make it through those switchbacks very easily, if at all. Additionally, the paving really needs to be redone as the asphalt is breaking up in sections. We also are required to have a paved parking location for the truck (plus, our entire property is sand…and I have no intention of getting this vehicle stuck in my yard). We just got our first estimate for that work…when the cheapest option (that really isn’t an ideal solution) is over $15,000, you know you’re in for a big project. We think the work on the commissary building will be minimal (removing carpet and replacing with something that complies with regulations). There is the potential that we will have work required on our well (to make it public use) or our septic (perhaps adding a grease trap). These may be small or large ticket items, depending on what the inspectors say. We are hoping that they will say the commissary just needs to have water, sewer and electric connections, as this particular truck has everything that an inspected kitchen requires.
Oh yeah, inspections. Can I just say that it has been frustrating trying to figure out what we are supposed to be doing? We are rule followers, so we do actually read the regulations (when we can find them). We’ve called multiple people at DHEC and the Department of Agriculture (who sets the cottage laws that we currently operate under). We’ve gotten different answers from different people within the same agency to the same question. It makes me understand why some people choose to ask for forgiveness than permission. We’ve also had to research requirements with the FDA at the federal level. We are continuing to ask, to research, and determine what we think is the correct course of action. We are working to make applications for all the needed permits to operate the food truck.
We are working hard towards expanding our business. No one wants to see this more than we do. Please be patient with us as we navigate these waters, that seem to change direction frequently. If you have any insight into helping with any of the hurdles we’ve talked about, please reach out to us!
The best way to help right now is to continue doing business with us. We have weekly Stop n Shop markets on Saturdays inside Rustic Chic Interiors. Check out our Facebook page for updates on our latest events. We also have several options to help us fundraise, including our gofundme page, and our flipgive campaign. Please consider using any of these avenues to help us fund this venture.
We look forward to continuing to serve you, and provide amazing treats to you and your families. This food truck will expand what we can offer, and we are excited about the opportunities ahead of us. Thank you for your continued support. We couldn’t do this without you all! This has been, and continues to be, a lesson in faith and trust.