Food truck vendors fuel their dreams to succeed by serving up food and drinks for locals in search of unique tastes.
Groovy Grillers and More, LLC’s Reva Pike was a food server at Toby’s Barbecue restaurant before it closed in 2020.
Because many restaurants were closed due to the pandemic, Pike thought truck drivers in Dinsmore might benefit from the accessibility of food trucks since they couldn’t access drive-thru establishments.
She bought a trailer for $20,000 from a retiring vendor in November. With new trailers and trucks costing up to $100,000, Pike believes that she has saved thousands of dollars. Husband Chris and brother-in-law Kory Miller renovated the vehicle within 11 days.
“We opened our doors and it just exploded,” she said of the breakfast and lunch service.
Fellow Callahan residents Heather and Louis Merz began roasting their own coffee from fresh coffee beans. The idea to bring their coffee to others formed and the idea for the Roasted Rooster name developed because they used to have chickens.
“We’ve been roasting, it’s almost been two years, but we started the food truck in October of last year,” Heather Merz said.
The business has accelerated since COVID-19 changed the dynamics of serving food and beverages in restaurants.
“Honestly, I think that Corona did have part in that, because people can stand outside and social distance,” Merz said. “I think that has helped the popularity because you’re not in a sit-down restaurant. You can just grab-and-go. And so, I think that has helped our cause.”
Former Hilliard resident Rylee English stops by the Roasted Rooster Coffee Company whenever she’s visiting from her new home south of Tampa.
“I like the salted caramel and white mocha a lot,” she said, adding that she’d rather shop local instead of spending her money on coffee at Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.
Several upgrades to the coffee machine, grinder and other equipment mean that it will be a couple years before the business owners will see a return on investment. Mom Brenda and Merz’s brother, Bradley Wikstrom, assist in creating hot and cold specialty drinks like raspberry white chocolate lattes and iced mocha lattes, including a variety of frappes, hot lattes and classics like coffee and hot chocolate. They also have hot and iced tea chai lattes.
“To date, we’ve spent over $80,000 and that includes doing the build-out work ourselves,” Merz said. “Being a mobile operation, there’s a lot of moving parts and it takes a lot of extra time and work to prepare and go out each day, compared to having a brick-and-mortar location. My husband still works his job as an SEO consultant.”
Pike operates her business with sister-in-law Toni Miller. She assists with taking orders and expediting the food to customers.
Before opening, Pike underwent a state inspection of the trailer and obtained a food handling license and a food manager’s license. She has general liability insurance for her trailer. With just one employee, she isn’t required to have workers’ compensation.
Callahan’s Sammy Brown enjoys the menu and visits throughout the week, even traveling to meet the trailer in Dinsmore. Pike and Brown attended West Nassau High School together.
“Every day, twice a day,” Brown said. “I love the breakfast sandwiches, the pork sausage with the eggs scrambled. And then lunch, I get the double-bacon cheeseburger. It’s really good. It tastes like it’s home-cooked.”
Ceante Dasher said he doesn’t really care for regular fast food.
“But this, I can eat it,” he said. “It’s good. It’s fresh. It’s cooked to order how I like it.”
Pike works hard to deliver the made-to-order meals.
“You have to not be lazy at all,” she said. “It’s a lot of work. Even in our off-hours we’re still doing inventory. We’re doing paperwork, shopping, stocking, cleaning.”
She’s learned to adapt to what her customers want.
“You have to be open to change,” Pike said. “Not everyone is going to like your menu and you’re not going to be able please everyone, which is something hard for me to learn, especially growing up here. I know everybody. So if anybody is disappointed, it really, really weighs on me. … We’re constantly changing.”
So far Pike is pleased with the way the business is going. The breakfast menu includes a variety of breakfast sandwiches and biscuits and gravy. During lunch, the menu includes Cajun chicken sandwiches, loaded pork fries, catfish sandwiches and shrimp and grits.
“We’re super blessed and super excited to be serving our local community as far as Dinsmore and Callahan,” she said.
Callahan’s Kendra Nelson likes the convenience of walking up to the trucks.
“I love it,” she said. “I think it’s great and especially during the pandemic, when everyone couldn’t get out to go the restaurants. They’re here and it’s open so our safety is still ... you feel good about it.”
Merz is proud of the products that customers line up to order, whether it’s coffee beans or beverages.
“We only use high-quality ingredients and source only the highest quality green coffee beans. The most exciting thing to me is getting out there with the customers and being able to serve them a great cup of coffee. Definitely puts a smile on a lot of people’s faces and brightens their day.”
Cris Johnson began visiting the truck three to four times a week. She enjoys the caramel frappe as it delivers a full-bodied flavor.
“It takes like coffee,” the Callahan resident said. “It’s not really sweet at all. I love it.”