Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Learning Curve

This is unedited because my editor is too busy to edit it. So I take all responsibility for mis-spelled word and grammatical errors.

 Flashback if you will.


A dusty little farm town named "Harwood" in eastern North Dakota. Population, maybe 100 on a good day. A town like so many in North Dakota. It consisted of a grain elevator, post office, a gas station for interstate travelers and a bar. As time started to abandon this little town, an entrepreneur from the nearby mega-tropolis of Fargo eyed a business venture he couldn't pass up. The 'bar". It was quite large for a small town and in his eyes it had possibilities. This entrepreneur was my father, Joseph. He was no stranger to the bar business having owned a few before. So he bought it. It was called "The Harwood Hideout". 

Ahead of his time, he breathed new life back into that bar. He brought entertainment out to that dusty little farm town on weekends. He created amateur shows highlighting area talent. Comedy shows to make people laugh. Word started to spread in the mega-tropolis of Fargo about a little bar in a dusty little farm town. People started to show up, weekend after weekend, bringing much needed life back into this dusty little farm town. 

How does this affect me you might ask? I mean I was probably 14 at the time. Let me tell you how. My father, the entrepreneur, decided to put a little food trailer in the parking lot of that little bar in the middle of the summer. It was a hot, dusty summer. So hot and so dusty. His idea was to have his three children work the stand selling hotdogs, popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy. Something for the younger people in town to enjoy. It started with three. Soon my brother bailed out, then my sister bailed out. All that was left was me. Sitting in a little food trailer in the middle of a little dusty farm town, sweating profusely all day long. Eating hotdogs, popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy. There were no profits for my father because if I was lucky and I mean really lucky, I would get one or two town kids to come over and spend a buck or two.

Why do I relate this all to you, you are probably wondering? Well I, or should I say we, to include my beautiful wife Lisa, find ourselves sitting in a little food trailer in the middle of summer, sweating our "you know whats off" in a small little town in western Minnesota. It really went full circle on that one.

At the Kirkbride for a concert.

Could I say that owning a food trailer of my own has been a childhood dream of mine? I don't think so. I never really thought about it until we found ourselves sitting for hours waiting and waiting for a customer to show up, and we had nothing on our hands but time to sort through old memories. Then "WHAM"! An old memory slaps you in the side of the face like Will Smith and then you realize that you have done this before.

We are smack dab into the middle of summer here now. Our food trailer has been up and running now for two months and we are definitely muddling our way through this. We have a ton of events scheduled and it is getting busy for sure. We are learning valuable lessons every single day and learning a lot from them also. One such lesson would be not to leave a container of soup on the counter when you load up the trailer and head home. All you are going to find is a floor full of soup when you get home. Lesson duly noted.

Disgruntled Brewing.

Another lesson would be after a long day of slinging soup. You are tired and may forget things. Such as this example. When we are done and we have unsold soup in the warmers, we have to get them home to get them cooled down and refrigerated so that they can be re-used. Now it is very important not to forget about them until morning. Because at that point they are wasted and have to be thrown out. Another lesson learned.

At Fergus Brewing Co.

I think we are on lesson 387 right now. I will give just one more example because I could go on and on. We use a food service for many things. Our problem is that we have to order a certain amount from them in order for them to make a delivery. In our case, it is 16 cases of merchandise. So we placed an order. We picked it up and put it away in our trailer. We have two refrigerators and one freezer. They were stuffed full. As fate would have it, we had a power outage while we slept. We knew that because in the morning our clocks were flashing. Well the power came on so we didn't think anything of it until later on in the morning Lisa went out to the barn and the trailer was off. The outage tripped the circuit breaker to the trailer unbeknownst to us. We figured that the power was out for at least 8 hours and our refrigerator temps got into the 50's wrecking the food in there. The freezer was still okay. We figured we lost about a thousand dollars worth of food. What did we learn. One, not to order so much food. We have found a different food service that will let us pick up small orders. Number two, always check the circuit breaker after any power outage. Just because the power comes on doesn't mean the trailer comes back on.

One of our biggest problems is figuring out the food situation. Every event is different. We don't serve the same food at every event. We are not a corn dog stand and serve corn dogs every time. Our menu changes daily and from event to event. As we go to some places repeatedly we are getting that under control. Also we are learning which events are keepers and which ones we will have to let go next year, and which events we will try harder and earlier to get into. Like the title of the blog. The learning curve.

The 1910 Sip House.

One of our best sellers is a sandwich we created. We do a lot of breweries and as we talked to them they thought that "men" wouldn't want soups or pasta salads. So we developed our own Research and Development lab of The Lone Pine Soup Co. There we look for new food concepts and then we test them out on friends and family. Our Guinea pigs as we lovingly call them behind their backs. I wanted to serve a creative hot dog. What we came up with is what we call the "Cheesy Sasquatch". Now I can't go into the specifics because of trademark laws, but it has become one of our biggest sellers. I will just say that it is a hot dog wrapped in cheese, ham, onion on Italian bread and then grilled on a Panini machine. 

Our location downtown Fergus Falls.

Lisa is the CEO of the Lone Pine Soup Co. She is the head of this world wide conglomerate. She is the problem solver and the main person that books all events across the country. Other hats she wears are Chief Chef, Cook and Over Thinker. My titles are CFO, Delivery Driver and one that I didn't know about when I signed onto this company and that one is, drum roll please.........Head Dishwasher. As a bonus, I get my own sinks and all of the dish soap I need. 

Like I said before we are so busy now. Summer will be gone before we know it and in the winter we may have a turn key business for sale. JK.