From banking career to banking on fries November 20, 2010 12:35 am The primary goal of Beach Fries LLC is to operate a mobile, stand-alone food service truck that provides quality food for a fair and reasonable price to its customers. The keys to our success are quality, consistency, value and location. November 20, 2010 12:35 am BY CATHY JETT
Eddie Crosslin, shown here with fiancee Kim Noel, got the idea for his food truck from watching vendors at a farmers market in Dale City. He starts in January and plans to have his truck at various spots around town.
November 20, 2010 12:35 am The primary goal of Beach Fries LLC is to operate a mobile, stand-alone food service truck that provides quality food for a fair and reasonable price to its customers. The keys to our success are quality, consistency, value and location. November 20, 2010 12:35 am
November 20, 2010 12:35 am
BY CATHY JETT
Eddie Crosslin had an epiphany one cold, windy day at the Dale City Farmers Market.
While he and two others were spending an hour setting up C&T Produce's stand, another vendor pulled in and started popping kettle corn for eager buyers.
"Nobody was selling anything, and here's this concession guy and he's selling all day long," said the Stafford County resident. "As soon as the market closed, he was cleaned up and gone. I thought to myself: What could I sell that would sell like that?"
It wasn't an idle question.
Crosslin, 50, had lost his job as assistant vice president for collections when Union Bank & Trust merged with First Market Bank, and gone back to college to finish his degree. He was planning to become a teacher, but he'd also long dreamed of running a restaurant and used to run the concession stand at the YMCA in Stafford.
"French fries were the most popular thing by far," he said. "My favorite thing in the world is Boardwalk Fries. I thought: Maybe fries are the way to go."
Crosslin was so excited about the idea of starting his own concession business that he began texting fiancee Kim Noel, who is a project manager for the proposed National Museum of the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir.
"We sent 162 texts back and forth between us that day," she said.
That kicked off a chain of events that Crosslin expects will culminate with the start of a new career in January, when his seasonal gig as Fredericksburg Santa ends. That's when he's hoping to get his customized food truck for a family-run business whose slogan will be "Beach Fries & So Much More."
"The mobile food business is the wave of the future," he said. "The benefit, from my point of view, is that I don't have all the bricks-and-mortar costs. I go to the customers. If I rent 907 Caroline St., I have to get everyone to come to 907 Caroline St."
Crosslin plans to be at a different site each day of the week, possibly at Hurkamp Park in Fredericksburg, Geico's office in Stafford and outside the Dahlgren Naval Support Facility. He'll also go to festivals and fairs on weekends, and cater special events such as birthday parties.
"I'm going to sell from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. I'm not [going to be] open from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. when nobody comes, or 2 to 5 p.m. when nobody comes," he said. "A normal restaurant's got dead times that I won't, and I won't have all the costs."
Back in May, however, Crosslin was still mulling over the idea when his friend Travis Bullock, who is manager of the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair, called to ask if he knew anyone who would take over one of the fair concession stands.
"I thought: Wow! This is like a sign from God," Crosslin said. "I said, 'I'll take it.'"
He spent the next two months getting ideas and suggestions from friends in the food business; creating a menu of unique-to-the-fair items such as his take on Boardwalk Fries plus deep-fried bologna burgers and deep-fried C&T Produce corn; and scouring the Internet for fryers and other equipment.
"I bought what I thought was enough for the fair. It was a guess," Crosslin said. "By Sunday afternoon I was out of food totally, and I'm back on the road to BJ's."
His bologna burger proved especially popular with the fair carnies, who dubbed it "carnival steak." And Miss America Caressa Cameron and her entourage put in a special request for the fries.
"Everybody loved it," Crosslin said. "They were saying: 'Where's your restaurant? Where can we come?' That planted more seeds."
He decided to outfit a trailer to take to festivals and fairs, and found out through the grapevine about a friend who wanted to sell an old Linens of the Week truck she'd started to convert so she could sell barbecue.
"I decided to buy the truck on a Sunday. Then I went home, turned on the TV and as the screen lights up there's a picture of a food truck. It was the premiere of 'The Great Food Truck Race,'" Crosslin said. "I sat down for the next hour and was enthralled. I thought: We're onto something here."
Inspired, he began searching the Internet to find out everything he could about the food truck business and attended a seminar on food trucks at the Mid-Atlantic Food, Beverage & Lodging Expo in Baltimore.
"In the seminar, there was a food truck operator who has a bar and uses the truck to promote his bar," Crosslin said. "Another guy was a mortgage banker who was forced out of business by the economy and decided to go into the food business."
The one who impressed him the most was the owner of Red Hook Lobster Pound in Washington, who uses Twitter to alert fans of his Maine lobster rolls to that day's location.
Crosslin also learned that the biggest nightmare for concessionaires isn't the food, but getting a food truck that complies with all rules and regulations. He got the names of two Virginia truck customizers, and picked East Coast Custom Coaches in Manassas.
When it's finished, the former Linens of the Week truck will have a 16-foot kitchen complete with five sinks, a fridge, a freezer and fryers. The exterior will be University of Tennessee orange, a nod to Crosslin's native state, and have an awning and speakers so he can play music.
He has decided to ditch the bologna burgers and foot-long hot dogs he sold at the fair in favor of two types of chicken sandwiches and the crab cakes that were such at popular item at the former Captain Sid's Seafood & Deli near Carl's ice cream stand. But he'll keep those beach fries and the deep-fried corn, and may add some seasonal items such as Brunswick stew.
"If I hadn't been at that market, I'd be sitting in a classroom today," Crosslin said. "I truly think that it was divine intervention that I was supposed to be there that day."
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407
Copyright 2011 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.
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