A dream of his youth, Bob and Sheri Erickson of rural Waukon dove into the food truck business on a leap of faith, and have been guided through the process every step of the way.
“I believe God had a plan for us and this food truck,” Bob stated, “because everything just fell into place when it needed to.”
Bob, an accountant, banker, consultant and faithful volunteer, noted his dream started with his first bite of a Pronto Pup – a precursor to corndogs, with more flour than cornmeal and a thinner batter – at the Minnesota State Fair his junior year in high school. He wanted to be one of the vendors there selling this delicious product, but “life opens other avenues,” added Sheri.
Bob went to college, became a banker, married Sheri as a student of physical therapy and they had two daughters, Heather and Hillary.
“It was never out of his mind, this dream of owning a food truck with Pronto Pups, but this was definitely not planned,” Sheri reported.
Bob said, “It just happened. It started about 2-3 years ago. It’s so easy when you retire to fall into a very simple routine focused on the rigors of daily life, taking care of the ‘I’ and the ‘me.’ But that’s not pushing you to learn, grow or to care about others. And that’s what we set out to do.”
Bob noted it wasn’t that they didn’t analyze the opportunity before making the somewhat quick decision to dive into the food truck. “It’s just that I always tend to look for more than one way to make things work. When you do something, and don’t know how it should be done, then you can come up with creative and unique solutions that maybe have never been tried before.”
The pair described each other. Bob said about Sheri that “she can’t sit idle, she’s always got to be learning or doing something.” Sheri went back to school to obtain her doctoral degree. She also holds several certifications, specialty physical therapy designations and even obtained her certification as a Healing Touch practitioner. Sheri added that Bob “is so creative with his ideas. He always has ideas (sometimes crazy ones) but always exciting.”
Their daughter Heather Erickson-Weigle laughed, noting, “My dad knows a lot about the word ‘and’ but not about the word ‘no.’ The greatest gift I got from both my parents, but especially my dad was: there was never an idea that was not a possibility. He’s always managed to stay mentally between the ages of eight and 28. Going into one of the most volatile businesses with no experience, buying a food truck and figuring it out as you go. That’s how he works.”
And so, as a nod to their heritage – both claiming Norwegian ancestors – and to the connections of the people who were there at just the right time to not only provide what they needed to make the dream come alive but also sage advice, guidance and expertise to help them be successful, “Ole and Lena’s Kitchen” was born.
Jokingly Bob said with a smile, “of course, everyone 75 years old wants to start up a food establishment in a trailer. Everything just seemed to fall into place. After months of searching, we found the perfect food truck builder in a man
with years of experience in the food truck industry. Most food trucks manufacturers are in the South, but his company (Food Truck Warriors) is located in Cedar Rapids. He totally gave us such great advice. He was a Godsend. We needed a truck to pull the trailer, and found just what we needed. We found the equipment, the education and certification, the sign on the trailer, the suppliers – most are local people – and we’ve had such a great connection with the folks coming by Ole and Lena’s Kitchen. There’s no logical sense to it, but I think God has a plan for this trailer.”
Sheri came up with the unique menu options, using lefse instead of tortillas for savory wraps and sweet lefse dishes, in addition to Pronto Pups. (Hot dogs are interestingly popular in Norway, so another nod to their heritage, family and friends overseas). They also offer deep- fried cheese curds (from Homestead Dairy in Waukon), and Spring Grove Sodas – a real reflection of local producers and their offerings.
You can find Ole and Lena (Bob and Sheri) in their food truck at various events, including the upcoming Allamakee County Fair, Fort Atkinson Rendezvous Days, the Lansing Farmers Market, Music in the Park in the Waukon City Park, and even in the parking lots of local businesses. They will be sharing good food, making new friends, and sharing memories and connections with customers over a shared heritage.
Bob said matter-of factly, “Without roots, you’re just blowing in the wind. Giving young people these roots of their heritage is essential. Giving opportunity to others through Ole and Lena’s Kitchen is a plan we are working on.” Sheri added, “celebrating our heritage and the family and friends we’ve been connected to in Norway and here, that’s what this is about, the old times and new experiences.”
For now Bob and Sheri (when they aren’t volunteering elsewhere), and Heather and Hillary and their families are enjoying working in the food truck; connecting with people all across the driftless; serving quality local food and beverages, as well as compassion and connection. For more information, or to invite them to an event, contact email@example.com or phone 563-419-8616.