Raquel and Scott Lundberg welcomed people into their house for 13 years. Now, Raquel’s Kitchen is open for business.
The former owners of the Waller House Inn made the tough decision to close the well-known Little Falls bed and breakfast in June 2020. That didn’t mean they were going to get out of the hospitality business altogether. They simply pivoted to their new venture, Raquel’s Kitchen, a food truck featuring fry bread tacos and smash burgers.
Raquel said after her desire to add a tea room at the Waller House was turned down by the city because of zoning issues, and not finding the right fit in terms of a brick and mortar restaurant over the years, the idea to start a food truck had been something she was kicking around for a while. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused business to dry up at the Waller House, it seemed like the perfect time to give it a go.
“We thought we could get into having a food truck,” she said. “You can pick your own hours, it’s not 365 days a year; it was something different without the huge time commitment.”
A couple of years ago, the Lundbergs had purchased a vacant lot in the 500 block of First Street Southeast, right next door to Marshik Insurance Agency. It was zoned for business, and they were already thinking it would be “the perfect place to park a food truck.”
As the pandemic began to take its toll on the hospitality business, the Lundbergs saw their once-packed summer booking calendar at the Waller House dwindle down to nothing by the beginning of June. Soon after the decision was made to close the B&B, Raquel said she was “pretty much non-stop” thinking about her next venture.
First, they needed a truck itself. Raquel knew that they needed an 18-foot cargo bay so there was room for a full kitchen. Next came deciding on the menu. Raquel said she watched a lot of videos online to get ideas of what food truck owners around the country were serving up. She eventually decided on fry bread tacos and smash burgers.
With the reputation as a foodie, she had to make sure what she was serving up was unique to Raquel’s Kitchen. She was having a hard time figuring out what to do about the buns for the smash burgers when she stumbled upon the perfect recipe for homemade buns.
“One day I had done a practice run at my church,” Raquel said. “I had some dough left over, and with fry bread, you have to eat it immediately. So, I got the leftover dough and rolled it up and just stuck it in the oven. I ended up cooking the perfect buns. It was the exact bun I was looking for, so the recipe that I had been using for the fry bread turned out to be the same one I use for the buns. It’s the same bread, just a different process.”
Word got out that the food truck was coming when a Facebook page for Raquel’s Kitchen went online in June. By early October, it was open for business. Above average temperatures during the fall allowed the Lundbergs to keep it open for about two months before closing up shop for the winter, though Raquel said they might occasionally open if the weather allows.
During that time, she said the response from the community was “humbling and overwhelming.”
That includes a lot of happy, return customers.
“When you open a business, once you get people there the first time, if you’ve got a good product, they’ll come back,” Raquel said. “In Little Falls, people want to help each other out.”
She said being able to feed her friends and neighbors has been perhaps the most rewarding part of the endeavor, so far.
“Before, with the B&B, I got to feed people breakfast,” Raquel said. “Consistently, people talked about how good the breakfast was. Those were all strangers, but now I get to feed friends. When you get to feed your friends, there’s something special about that.”
Prior to opening, she said they projected what they could expect to make financially during the first couple of months. They figured out how much it was going to take to pay the bills. Though she said they are not getting rich, results have so far blown those projections out of the water.
Raquel said that would not be possible without a community that supports not only her business, but all small business owners.
“I have lived in this community for 14 years,” Raquel said. “This is the 34th address I’ve lived at, but this is my first home. It’s this community that makes it home. In any other communities that I’ve lived in, I would not have the support for my truck that I have here.”