I’m writing this on April 17, 2012, 2 months to the day since I opened the doors to The Comida Cantina at 721 Confidence Drive in the neighborhood of Prospect, in Longmont Colorado. And while I am many things today…. excited, grateful, awestruck, humbled, and yes tired… I am not one single bit regretful. The last 2 months have been some of the most incredible and intense of my life. They have been filled with more abundance than you could shake a cat of 9 tails at. And I have shared it with some of the most incredible people I have ever known. My staff rocks… harder than a group of 16 year old girls at a Miley Cyrus Concert. They are an awesome cross section of our community. And while I have in no way been grateful to the recession that has gripped most of our country, I am in this regard. People want to work. They want to be a part of something good. They need to pay their bills, and The Cantina is helping 25 people do that every day. I love that!!!
Each day as we open the Cantina, prepare the menu and ready for service, there is laughter, realness, integrity of intention and the efforts of hard work. There are walls that hold in the smells and flavors that I have dreamed about. There are chairs for people to take a load off at the end of their day. There are bottles of tequila, whisky, beer, wine that I love and feel proud to serve. And Tina parks herself just outside. For the record, the truck has not stopped going out. People ask every day “how’s that little bus of your doing? Does it still go out?” I always answer yes, smile and point to it. “Look, she’s out there right now.” Tina…. my first love at Comida. The hardest working employee I have had. She’s taken a few beatings since we moved to Mayberry (the name I affectionately call the neighborhood of Prospect where the Cantina is located). But she’s happy for the move and looks damn good sitting outside the restaurant she essentially built.
After the second week I arrived early one morning to find no fewer than 2 dozen eggs thrown all over the front of the restaurant and all over Tina’s sides. Hard and crusty, it had dried over night. Egg is no friend to stucco, and Tina looked down right ashamed as she sat their caked in goo. But life goes on and every once in a while you pick a winning number. And I did just that when it comes to my landlord. He came right over with a Hotsy and power washed both Tina and the store front and we were back in action in no time, knees dusted off and tears wiped away. Business ownership is many things, boring is never one of them.
In the mean time, each day the Cantina grows. In a neighborhood people balked at for being out of the way, too long of a drive from Boulder, Comida has a wait. On any given Tuesday night I will walk through the restaurant and count a butt in every seat, and many waiting at the door. I know it frustrates those that come and don’t want to wait, it’s Longmont after all, why should they? But I swear, once they have a freshly made Comida Coin with salt making their palm chilly, they relax a little and the pain of waiting is eased. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. There is a fine line for people, I know. It’s a delicate balance when it comes to waiting. We walk the line a lot I am sure, but hopefully the company they’ve come with will serve to entertain and the Comida we set in front of them once they have a table is worth the wait. Whatever… a girl can dream.
Now Spring is in full swing, the patio is open, we started lunch and brunch 2 weeks ago, and the truck is booking out into October. We get to go Aspen Food and Wine again this year, and the amount of kindness and attention the various news agents, writers, bloggers and critics have given us takes the smile from ear to ear. And while we strive every day to do the right thing, to not fail for our guests, or for each other, we still bump into our humanity daily. Admittedly, we have failed. But like any good school of hard knocks, the lessons have been real and we have done our best to pay attention. No doubt, they will continue to present themselves, and we will do our best to listen.
So that’s really it for now. I know the time in between posts has been great, and I will try to keep you updated more often. If you are reading this I figure A: it’s the middle of the night and you can’t sleep or B: you are trying to open a food truck and want advice or C: you’re my mom. If you are not in one of those categories, I thank you. And if you are, I thank you. There are many out there without which I could not do this. Most don’t get named, but hopefully all know who they are.
I will leave you with a quote that each person hired into Comida reads in the Employee Manual. It serves as our mission:
Be well, stay tuned, and eat more Street Food!
Today marks the end of an era in the world of Comida. When I tell you that there has been no shortage of tears, I tell you the truth. Jovee signed on with me as my right hand man on March 23, 2010. Since that day, he has been beside Tina and I. He has been what every owner would ever want in a right hand. He has gone above and behind the call of duty so many times I could not possibly share it all here. There are simply not words to express my gratitude for this man. The guy I called the Dude, my buddy, my confident, my backbone, my friend. Sometimes the pain in my ass I simply could’t shake. Here a just a few snippets of the crazy and hilarious times we experienced as we started Comida, together.
- First day out/ Terri Cox’s party/ turned Tina on and she burned my ponytails and singed my eyelashes. Service began… we put out better food than people ever imagined.
-Driving to Aspen/ white knuckle driving by yourself, 2 times (4 if you count each way) you, hand out the window, offering people tacos on the way up I-70.
-Learning that we always need the ladder, we always need the cooler, we always need a lighter, we always need the cover on jenny! (door is close for generator…., window falling out of casing just as I said, ” Gosh Jovee, I’m not sure that window is secure.” “We can see it all from way up here” “I taught english in Jamaica man…” “Peaches falling out the back of Tina, slow motion… it took and hour” “offering an orange in a time of need” “The dirts, the garbage dumpster, the wind, the snow, the rain, the heat, the cold, the frozen toes, hands, burned eyelashes, burned corneas, situation DOWN! Situation Overnight….
-I go out of town and Jenny breaks. You spend all day underneath her, fixing her.
-countless runs for propane.
-the coldest night after Thanksgiving.
-Same thing every day…
-1000 tacos, 200 people, 45 minutes. I have to sing.
-The cops, the douche bags, the good ones. City council meetings. Being illegal for a year. The guy that pretended to be a security guard. Figuring out how to make lemonade from lemons so many times… and we did it. Together.
For you… Jovee. I will miss you. Please don’t be a stranger. May you find all the joy you are seeking. May you find warmth on snowy mornings, a cold pool at the end or middle of any hot day, time with your wife you may not have had due to Tina’s needs, and mine, and may you keep on living the dream. I was sure honored to be a part of that for the time we had. All my love.
I find myself saying this a lot lately, but where did our friend Summer go? We live for summer, but after 1 1/2 years in business, I can gratefully say, we do not die by her when she leaves. My favorite and most asked question is still “Is it hot in there?” followed quickly by “Do you have air conditioning?” Both are funny to all of us. “Yes, it’s really hot. We love it!” and “No, definitely no to the AC question”. My friend Drew has AC on his Sweet Cow truck. So trick and fly and I am more than a little jealous, but Tina, she’s just hot. And so we sweat, and laugh and sing and holler and shout and sell tacos. And make friends. We’re still doing that. Thanks so much to all of you who keep coming out to us, waiting in line, sitting on the ground, all of it. There were more than a few new trucks that opened this summer and it has been great to build this community of mobile vending with them. And lately, once again, there has been a surge of people calling and writing and asking….. hey, who’d you do it? Can you give me your business plan? How much did you spend? How did you know how to build your truck? How did you make your route? find places to go? decide on your menu? pick your outfit this morning? I am floored each time I open one up. Honestly, I respond to some. Always to friends, sometimes because they ask really nicely. But for real!? In my experience of opening restaurants and now Comida, I asked some questions,but mostly I went to work. I worked for people who were smart, and I listened and took notes. But I worked. And I made mistakes. Mistakes that cost me so much money I frequently want to throw up in my mouth when I think about them. But that is what you do. People that think that opening a restaurant is fun and seems like a great idea almost never really know WTF is up. It is fun, and maybe like one Sunday every 5 months it’s easy, but most, as in like 85% of restaurants fail. In the first year. I know this because as I try to grow my business and I go to banks and ask for lines of credit, SBA loans, 10 extra dollars for whatever, they remind me of it.
But whatevs…. business is business, and life has a funny way of throwing curve balls and getting your attention. And so here we are, and for today, all we have to do is sell tacos. Make Comida, sell Comida, love Comida. And so that is what we will do. Today, September 19, 2011. Make, sell, love.
Have a good one! And as always…
Be well, stay tuned and eat more truck food!
Dear Diary, Tina Here.
It’s been a while since I last wrote. I have to admit and am grateful to say, I have been busy. Rayme (the blond one) and the Comida Crew have been working me hard. It is summer after all. And hot! I am feeling like I may need a pedicure, or some new shoes. Something. Anyway, just to get get a little attention the other day I threw a fit when we got to our LASP stop at CU. (I don’t mean to talk in code, that’s just where we were). My generator shut down and I forced Jovee and Serena to pack me up and call it a day before they even served their first taco. Thankfully Jovee (who I think I may have mentioned…. is the DUDE!) spent about 5 hours lying on the ground underneath me in the rain. Don’t get any fresh ideas. He was just trying to help. It’s really no wonder I needed a little tuneup. We just recently took our 2nd annual trip to Aspen. That is a long, steep drive and hard on me, even with the Dude driving me so well. Everyone had a blast though. We had been hired for 3 evening parties with Young’s Market (a group we served last year for the first time at the Little Red Ski Haus). In addition, we had also been asked to be a part of a Seminar on Top Wines For Tacos with friend Richard Betts. Like an actual seminar, and for Food and Wine. As in… if you aren’t catching my drift, the biggest deal EVER and something this taco truck never thought she’d never be a part of. The crew was beside themselves, and the blond one worried and wondered about how it would go right up until she was singing, out loud, on stage with Richard. Nothing like a good old fashioned sing along and some Sombra to ease the nerves. But really, from one big pink truck’s perspective, they rocked it. 1000 tacos served in 45 minutes to 200 people. I am proud of them. And I know how grateful they are to the 30 something volunteers from Food and Wine that helped assemble and serve the 200. Thank you doesn’t even begin to cover how our crew felt.
In general though, things have been pretty exciting. We are still waiting for our permit from the city of Boulder to come in the mail. The blond one reckons it will be here any day. With that, Comida will finally be legal, no longer “going rogue” as people liked to call it. And just because certain folks don’t like what mobile vending is or think it’s unfair will no longer be a good enough reason to call the cops when we and others pull up downtown (150 feet away from a bricks and mortar restaurant, on private property with the property owner’s permission blah biddy blah blah blah) and serve the people who want us there. It does not go lost on us however that another food truck has stopped it’s roll. That makes 2 in the city of Boulder in the last year. I know it makes the Comida crew sad, and maybe even a little scared. I mean honestly, what does it say about the business you have started when the 2 that start after you both stop after 6 months on the road? Hopefully not that the blond is totally nuts. Cuz’ between us girls, that’s what she’s worried about.
But really, there’s little time to ponder one’s nuttiness. We have parties to roll to and Truck Stops to make and food to cook and people to feed. I know the blond has said it here before, no one is getting rich (except maybe Roy Choi) with food truck ownership. But we are building something. We are making friends and putting ourselves out there and growing every month. The blond knew she had to start somewhere, and this pink taco truck knows that this somewhere was the right place. I hope you are having as much fun as we are. Even through the hard work and long hours, there’s nothing the blond would rather be doing. And no group of 4 she’d rather be doing it with.
And with that, I’m out. It’s a beautiful rainy afternoon and all the dust from the last week has been washed off me and I am ready to start fresh again tomorrow.
Be well, stay tuned and eat more truck food.
Tina the Pink Taco Truck