NEW HAVEN — So, you say you want to be in the food truck business? Contact New Haven resident Rachel Nally. She can give you a litany of trials, tribulations, frustrations, setbacks and disappointments that she overcame with the help of her neighborhood friends before getting her health department certification and heading to Angola for the Hippie Fest in early September.
Now she’s the proud owner of Local Apple Cart, a mobile dessert truck from which she’s selling everything from caramel apples, banana splits, sundaes and floats to all-beef hot dogs with chili and cheese. She even named the truck “Beastress” because of all the work it took to get it functioning and looking good.
“Seriously,” she said, “if it weren’t for my good friend Dan Figley, who is a tremendous handyman and jack-of-all-trades, and my neighbors on Canal Street here in New Haven, this never would have happened. I almost gave up on several occasions.
“I always wanted to own an ice cream shop like the one I worked at when I was a teenager in Cleveland. In fact, I’m bringing a little bit of my hometown here by naming the business after that shop which was called Apple Cart.”
After much research early this year she decided to take the plunge and purchase a utility truck, which she immediately named “Camille” after her children Charles and Mildred. “It turned out to be a disaster,” Nally said. “It was too small to hold two generators and a 400-pound ice cream machine and an assortment of other essential equipment. I was eager to get operational by July 4, but that didn’t happened.”
She listed the truck for sale on the internet and had several offers the next day. She found one in the Dayton/Cincinnati area that had served as a U.S. Post Office van and then a plumbing contractor’s vehicle.
“The plan was to rip out the old shelves, clean her up in a week, redo the electrical system, fix the brakes, add a serving window on one side, paint it bright and cheery colors, install the equipment and start selling yummy desserts. Wrong!
“It was unbelievably dirty and greasy. It took me three weeks with a pressure washer, some strong chemicals and a lot of scraping to get rid of the gunk.
The neighbors stepped in to help with the generator (it took seven hours to get it working), getting the electrical system in order and installing the ice cream machine. But when it was all done, we celebrated with ice cream.”
Nally got her health department certification Sept. 10, just in time to participate Sept. 11-13 in Hippie Fest in Angola. “The first day, Friday, was terrible. We had just one customer. It turned out that nobody could read the menu on the 32-inch TV monitor mounted outside the serving window. The brightness had been turned way down accidentally.
“We got that fixed and made cardboard signs with our offerings and Saturday was a very good day. The last day, Sunday, was just so-so. We came out sort of ‘evenish,’” she said. “We did learn that you have to have good advertising if you want people to stop. Since getting listed on fortwaynefoodtrucks.com Sept. 16, Local Apple Cart has received nearly a dozen requests to appear, including Lutheran Life Villages on Sept. 24 and the Coldwater, Michigan, WMCA Oct. 3.”
Local Apple Cart’s list of goodies includes homemade caramel apples (sprinkles optional), strawberry skewers with four or five berries drizzled with homemade white or dark chocolate, banana splits and chocolate-covered frozen bananas. Her turtle sundaes include a caramel chocolate shell and pecans. It also serves strawberry sundaes, pineapple upside-down cake sundaes and bananas Foster with caramel and cinnamon.
“Surprisingly the Mountain Dew float has been the most popular so far.
“We want to grow the business and have more trucks. In fact, both my children want one, and we’ll have to have one for (my handyman friend) Dan and the last one will be mine. It’s been an adventure and lots of hard work, but finally getting it on the road has been very satisfying.”