Sometimes, when we deeply believe in something, we just have to go for it. A lot of entrepreneurs who went into the food truck business went in with this kind of passion. When Mike Weems of Calle 75 first started back in 2008, he operated from a small tent at a local farmer’s market. As demand for his tacos grew, so did the need to move to something bigger which led him to the food truck business. Let us read more about his story and also get some tips along the way.
FTE: Please give us a brief background about yourself and your business.
Chef Mike: I am 38 years old, born and raised in Idaho. The only other place that I have lived in is Los Angeles, which is where I met my wife Rosie and learned a lot about the celebration of great food and culture. The name Calle 75 Tacos refers to Highway 75 (which runs through the Wood River Valley near Sun Valley) where we started at the Farmers Market. Our philosophy has always been to make delicious food, partnering with our local farmers and producers to utilize the highest quality ingredients in the Northwest and stay true to our passion to celebrate family recipes and the culture of the food.
FTE: What did you do and where did you go to get help setting up your business?
Chef Mike: We started selling tacos in 2008 at our local farmers market. We filled a trailer with grills, hot warmers, coolers, tables, etc and basically set up a kitchen inside a 10 x 10 tent and sold our goods. Our tacos quickly became popular, and the set up became a big pain in the ass week by week. I started thinking about mobile food trucks and how self sufficient it could be, and around the same time, the L.A. gourmet food truck scene was beginning. We took a trip back to L.A. to visit Rosie’s family, and her sister took us to a local food truck rally in her neighborhood. We got a little taste of the eclectic food varieties that were being presented by these food trucks. It took traveling to these cities, talking to food truck operators in L.A., following trucks on Twitter (especially Kogi) to see what the trends were and bring it to our business model in Idaho.
FTE: What should new entrepreneurs do first as far as government requirements are concerned?
Chef Mike: If you’re building a new truck or cart, be sure to submit your plans to your local health department and fire department ahead of time. They will appreciate the heads up, and this will save time in the long run. Otherwise, these agencies are ultimately issuing your annual licenses, so staying in touch on a regular basis is your best bet.
FTE: Was parking ever a problem in Boise, Idaho?
Chef Mike: Unfortunately, past food truck operators did not comply with city parking ordinances and keeping their trash and parking limits to a minimum. As a result, the city passed some ironclad parking restrictions all along the downtown corridor where it would be ideal to park your truck. The only food truck parking you may have (in this area downtown) is if it’s in a private parking lot or business lot with the owner’s consent. If you park on a metered spot, you will get a friendly police officer asking you for your permit, which you most likely don’t have and will be asked to leave. Unfortunately, it was one food truck long before the food truck scene started in Boise that ruined it for us all.
FTE: What has proven to be the biggest challenge for you while operating in the city?
Chef Mike: Weather and parking. December through February are generally the months when several trucks do not operate. There are several trucks that do stick it out through the cold winter months, but it can be pretty brutal for both the operators and the customers.
FTE: Finally, can you give our aspiring entrepreneurs some advice that can be useful to them?
Chef Mike: I feel people see social media and movies glorifying the food truck scene. Although it is fun to be out there in the midst of all these people enjoying your food, there is a reality to this. The realities of inclement weather, poorly organized events, and the challenges of starting a business alone are tough. The newer trucks that I see being successful are the trucks that follow their passion, are innovative and consistent. They don’t give up easily and are persistent. Trust me when I say you’re going to have some events that don’t make sense financially. When we started, we would do anything and everything that we could possibly do. We sometimes had 2 events 3 days in a row and the dollar amounts of these events did not matter. The food trucks that I’ve seen fail mostly expect an instant success and unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some get lucky.
A very wise, successful restaurateur told my wife and me many years ago, “The most important thing is passion. If there is no passion in your business, you will not succeed.” To this date, we live by that motto.
Kudos to you Mike.
Hopefully, the links below can provide more useful information for you.
Business Licensing – This is your starting point if you want to do business in Boise, Idaho.
Temporary Merchant Licensing – This is where you should go for temporary licenses with the option to apply for annual and semi-annual licenses.
Rules Governing Mobile Food Units – This is a link to a PDF file containing complete information about the Health Department’s rules on mobile food units which include food trucks.
Mobile Food Establishment Packet – Here’s another PDF file from the city’s Health Department website featuring requirements and the license application form.
Calle 75 – Please visit our friend Mike’s website.