It has been over a year since a fire destroyed three buildings in downtown Grand Marais, resulting in the loss of two gift shops and The Crooked Spoon Cafe. For Nathan and Sara Hingos, owners of The Crooked Spoon, a year of upheaval brought on by the fire and the Covid-19 pandemic has led them to the start of their next venture: reviving their much-loved business in the form of a food truck.
While already a trend on the rise, food trucks have grown in popularity since the start of the pandemic, attracting interest with a sense of fun, good food, and the ability to dine in an outdoor setting amidst indoor dining restrictions. After the devastation of the fire, Nathan and Sara Hingos considered different plans for continuing The Crooked Spoon. As they navigated through various ideas and future unknowns, starting a food truck seemed like the best choice for them.
“A few months after the fire we were able to start formulating plans, and it seemed like a food truck was the most attainable to do quickly,” said Sara. “With Covid we had no idea what restaurant life would look like, and at this time in our lives this business model fit our lifestyle better and offers us more flexibility.”
The first big step in starting a food truck was, of course, finding a truck to use. Nathan’s research on food trucks revealed that buying and remodeling an existing food truck could be more expensive than building a new one, and so the Hingoses decided to partner with Chamelon Concessions, a Minneapolis-based company that manufactures food trucks and other mobile businesses. Chameleon Concessions helped them find an empty truck, and Nathan was able to work with Chameleon Concessions to design the interior.
“Everything inside the truck is brand new, and there was a lot of value to us in knowing that everything would be new,” Sara said.
In November 2020 Nathan and Sara brought the truck home to Grand Marais. They started operating in December, doing a winter trial run before the busy summer season. Sara said they were able to be open many days throughout the winter, and while the cold weather was a challenge, they also enjoyed the newfound flexibility with operating a food truck.
“There’s a different mindset when it comes to food trucks,” Sara said. “There’s an excitement around it, and a different feeling with people’s expectations. There were a few days when we were planning to be open until 4:30 but sold out of food by 1:30, and people were happy for us and thought it was great! There’s so much freedom in this style of business.”
The home base for The Crooked Spoon food truck will be the location of the original restaurant. As for the menu, the refrigeration limitations of food trucks will mean a shorter menu, but the new business model also brings an opportunity to experiment with new recipes, as well as continuing with customer favorites like the Yker Acres burgers.
Sara said that they are still working out the hours they plan to operate, but hope to be open for lunches on a regular basis. “Weather is a huge factor with food trucks, and since this is our first summer we can’t project exactly when we’ll be open. We’ll try being open on some rainy days and see how it goes, but we’ll probably operate by the weather.”
Since the food truck hours may be flexible, The Crooked Spoon will post updates on hours and menus through Facebook, Instagram, and their email list, which anyone can sign up for at crookedspooncafe.com.
Despite all of the difficult changes brought on by the past year, the Hingoses are looking forward to the new opportunities at The Crooked Spoon, made possible by the outpouring of support from the community.
“We want to thank the community for their past support and for all of their continued support and understanding as we start to operate differently,” said Sara.