Food truck owners find business is ‘sweet’
No matter how many lunches the folks who run Sweet T’s Tasty Soul and Dog sell at a particular location, they have to move on after 14 days – then stay away for at least 30 days. Those are two of the rules food trucks must follow in Kentucky, but Tamara Raglin had no complaints when she paused between trips to the customer window to talk about her new life. “It actually is going very, very well. We are overwhelmed at times because the word is traveling. People are constantly saying, ‘You’ve got to try Sweet T’s.’ Because we’re doing home cooking inside the trailer … so they’re not getting the same old big-box meals – fries and burgers,” Raglin said. “We do a number of things and we want you to feel like you’re eating from our kitchen table.” A table is one of the few things that food trucks, which are all the rage in bigger cities, usually don’t offer. Customers call or text Sweet T’s ahead of time, or order at the window. Sometimes, Raglin leaves her post inside the truck to hand meals through the window of a vehicle pulled up nearby, while co-owner Terry Givens delivers lunches to nearby homes and businesses. Raglin and her husband, Floyd, a retired Versailles police officer, bought the silver trailer a little more than three months ago, and Givens said he became a 50-50 investor a month ago. “I came over here one day and decided to go into business with this young lady,” Givens said. On this day – “Fish Friday” – Raglin and Givens were parked in the Woodford Plaza parking lot. A fairly steady rain didn’t scare off repeat customers like Kenny Goode, in town to help build More Than A Bakery. “Their fish is awesome. Good food,” Goode said. That’s the kind of customer feedback Givens was hoping to hear when he retired. “I told my co-workers at the Trane Company that one day when I retired, I was going to get a food truck. And hey – it’s come true,” Givens said before delivering chicken fingers, fries and peach cobbler to an employee of a nearby bank. “We’re always rolling.” Aside from their investment in a kitchen-on-wheels, complete with cooking equipment and the state-mandated three sinks and holding tank for waste, food truck operators have to clear several hurdles. A statewide permit to operate a mobile food unit costs $160, according to Jay Smith, environmental health manager of the Woodford County Health Department. That permit allows the trucks to operate most anywhere they’re allowed – but also forces them to be on their way in two weeks, and be subject to inspection at each site. Food stand operators, like those who operate the taco stands on Macey Avenue and other sites around the county, play under slightly different rules. Their $100 fee to the health department includes an inspection, but they, too, must pack up and move after 14 days, Smith said. Each time they open, they must pay the $100 fee. Finding that next place to go hasn’t been a problem, Raglin said. Last month, Sweet T’s did the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park, and Raglin said they’re invited back for the next big horse show. Saturday night they were in Nicholasville for a motorcycle rally at the city’s old drag strip. They’ve also been asked to return to the Lexington Road Plaza and will offer their wares at the Woodford County soccer tournament next weekend. “We have so many locations that are like, ‘Please come back to us.’ Because it’s convenient for their employees to eat, but it’s also convenient for their customers to eat,” Raglin said. Eric Carmickle, who said he’s visited every week since Sweet T’s opened, walked up to the window, pausing before ordering for his wife, who later joined him for lunch in his truck. “I ordered the Friday fish and baked beans – I’m not sure what she likes, to tell the truth – and French fries. I pretty much get anything they’ve got. It’s fresh, it’s home-cooked and everything, and it’s just amazing. It doesn’t matter what you get. Even if you don’t like something, you end up liking it, because it’s just that good,” Carmickle said. Raglin said she and her husband saw an opening in Woodford County to sell on-site and deliver such fare as chili dogs, catfish, hamburgers, collard greens, cupcakes, pies and cobblers. The following Monday, they parked outside the business/apartment complex on Yellow Jacket Drive where they’re headquartered. Eventually, after their new office is properly equipped, they’ll sell their food from inside, but continue to prepare it in the truck, the kitchen of which has just enough room for two people who don’t mind bumping elbows from time to time. “Everything we do is from our heart, with love,” Raglin said.