Ohio Business Spotlight - July 2022
Each summer, communities gather for holidays and events like Memorial Day, Independence Day, county fairs, festivals, and more. While the food truck was seen as a novelty just a few years ago, today food trucks are ubiquitous in Ohio and travel from all ends of the state to line up for these events to showcase their delicious creations for all to enjoy.
Inspired by a PBS special on hot dog restaurants, Darryl Robinson and his wife Nina designed SmashDawgz Food truck to be an old-school vintage hot dog truck that would serve the Toledo area.
Since starting, Smashdawgz food truck has seen several challenges and successes. Although increased food and fuel prices remain a challenge for Smashdawgz, they’ve overcome obstacles and remain a must-visit in northwest Ohio. Their strategy of staying open in the winter months and booking events across the Toledo area have kept consistent business throughout difficult economic conditions. In 2018, they were named Best Food Truck by the Toledo City Paper.
Some of Darryl’s favorite moments as a business owner have been visiting wineries, breweries, concerts, and other special events.
Bay Village music and chef legends, Todd and Billy, decided to combine their two passions of BBQ and Rock N’ Roll, when they started their own food truck. Since their beginning in 2015, Smokin’ Rock’N’ Roll has grown to be one of the most well-known and sought-after food trucks in Northeast Ohio!
Todd and Billy’s favorite part of being business owners is that they get to make their customers happy through food and music. They also really enjoyed being able to give back to their community by providing free luncheons to Northeast Ohio’s Police and Fire Departments, and health care workers over the past few years during the pandemic. That loyalty with the community has also helped create a strong customer base that has helped them mitigate the struggles with increased fuel and food prices.
Todd and Billy’s advice for future food truck entrepreneurs: start with a ‘fresh idea’ or unique take on your food, build a strong relationship with your community, and have fun with it!
The Food Truck Depot is located in central Ohio and supports several food trucks each week by allowing them to park and serve the Delaware community at their location. Paul Rockwell took this ‘freight depot’ and turned it into a place where startup and experienced entrepreneurs could work together and thrive as small businesses in Ohio. The Food Truck Depot has four to five trucks parked in their lot at a time, ranging from breakfast and dinner to savory and sweet.
Food Truck Depot has seen so many changes since its opening and owner Paul Rockwell is proud of their ability to quickly find solutions. With the pandemic, staff shortages, and an increase in operational costs, the Food Truck Depot put an increased emphasis in building upon strong customer, community-oriented strategies, and effective teamwork.
Paul’s advice for other business owners entering the restaurant business is to make a well-thought-out plan, make a great product and work hard at it, and immerse yourself within the community.
With previous experience in restaurant management from New York, owner and military veteran Brent Butler was inspired to start his food truck, Guac N’ Roll, in southern Ohio. Guac N’ Roll serves a variety of different tacos, quesadillas, and their specialty item - queso bowls.
Brent is proud of the positive impact Guac N’ Roll has had in the Chillicothe community and the example that he’s able to set for his children as an Ohio entrepreneur.
Shafton O. Greene had a dream to share his Caribbean culture with the Dayton community through traditional food from Trinidad and Tobago. That dream came true when he started Soca Food Truck in 2019.
Shafton expressed that one of their biggest challenges has been finding staff who know how to correctly make the food they serve. Most of the food and supplies they need are imported or require travel out of state to purchase, so that puts a strain on their business. However, Shafton never let these challenges hinder his goals of sharing his culture with the community.
Shafton’s success comes from his passion for his work. His advice for others looking to share their culture through a food truck is to have a relationship with their community and never forget to cook from the heart.
Lisa started her food truck after demand for her bakery started to substantially increase. Her truck, Lisa’s Sweet Stop, only continued to grow from there as she expanded to cover communities throughout Ohio and West Virginia. Lisa expanded her business to a food truck, Lisa’s Sweet Stop Truck.
Lisa sees her food truck as more than just a business, but rather her contribution to the community. She often donates baked goods to local organizations and charities.
Lisa’s advice to other food truck owners is to be flexible and think outside the box. That creative thinking has led to Lisa’s Sweet Stop truck’s continued success.
Marla Herrmann grows her own produce at home and one day started to take it to farmers’ markets to sell. She eventually evolved into making breakfast sandwiches with her produce and was a well-known stop at her local farmer’s market. As business continued to increase, she decided to take her business on the road and form The Big Green Thing – Better Food Truck. Since starting The Big Green Thing, Marla has expanded her reach to cover new communities throughout Ohio.
Marla takes a healthy approach to her food truck experience, using fresh produce and options that fit most diets and limitations. This approach not only contributes to her overall success of a company, but also help her achieve her goal of a healthier Youngstown community.
Before Sweets and Meats BBQ came to be, owner Kristen Bailey was working a corporate job and felt a part of her was unfulfilled. She decided to make a change and turn her hobby of barbequing into a full-time business.
Kristen is a firm believer in building your community and learning from other entrepreneurs around you. She attributes much of her success to the support of the southwest Ohio community and the camaraderie with the other area food trucks.