By John Pulliam | Galesburg.com
Jerry and Bambi Strom hope to bring new meaning to the term coffee break. The couple hopes people will “brake for coffee” when they see Jerry’s MoJo mobile coffee hot spot.
Bambi Strom, who works at the Dennis Twitty State Farm agency, said a girlfriend suggested they open a food truck. With Jerry’s eight years of coffeehouse experience, they decided that was the way to go.
“There’s no competition, as far as that mobile thing,” she said.
Saturday was the first day of operation for Jerry’s MoJo. Jerry Strom will post on Facebook and Twitter — @JerrysMoJo — where the mobile hot spot will be and when.
It’s easy being green
The operation is green, in more ways than one. The bright green electric truck — apparently the first of its kind used in this manner in Illinois — will stand out in the parking lots of area businesses. The business is also green, beginning with the use of the electric truck.
“We’re trying to be as green as we can,” Bambi said. “The Sustainable Business Center has invited us in.”
Jerry explained the business hopes to use the SBC for storage and to perhaps team up with En Season Café to get food from the restaurant out into the community. In fact, the Stroms hope to do cross-marketing with a number of businesses. Because of city ordinances, the truck cannot sell coffee while parked on city streets or in city parking lots, something the couple hopes will change someday. For now, Jerry’s MoJo is asking for permission to park the truck in various business parking lots. They say the response has been great.
“Ultimately, our goal is to get as green as possible,” Bambi said. “We’ve even talked about solar panels to power” the truck. Both admit they’re not sure if the solar panels are feasible.
They don’t feel they’re competing with the city’s brick-and-mortar coffeehouses. The Stroms are targeting the customer who wants coffee, iced tea, smoothies, yogurt and other drinks or packaged food on the run.
“We’re not looking for the customer meeting for a luncheon,” Bambi said. “We’re looking more for the person who can’t get quality coffee because of the situation they’re in.”
Teachers and anyone else with short lunch breaks, as well as third-shift employees are some examples.
“We also are going to be available for special events,” she said, and to complement concession stands at baseball and soccer games to offer more adult fare.
“Customer appreciation days, weddings, birthdays,” Bambi said, ticking off other possible places the bright green truck will pop up.
They hope to get the OK to set up at Knox and Carl Sandburg colleges, as well. Bambi studied marketing at both of the schools, earning her degrees.
The Stroms promise they’ll be offering quality products. The fresh roasted coffee comes from Dead Poets Espresso of the Quad Cities. All food items will be pre-packaged, as the truck doesn’t have a kitchen. One interesting item is the Two Degrees granola bars.
“Their premise is when you purchase a bar, they buy a meal for a kid in need,” Jerry, a 1999 ROWVA graduate, said. He explained the granola bar company serves “six or seven countries,” including the U.S.
He said they first saw the bars in June at Coffee Fest at Navy Pier in Chicago. The product is vegan and gluten-free.
“Just about anybody can eat them and they taste good,” Bambi said.
The Stroms looked for some time for a business that Jerry could operate.
“We have a lot of entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “We’ve always tossed around different ideas.”
Bambi’s father, Joe Knutson of Chicago, is also a partner in the business and will be moving to Galesburg. He jump-started it by purchasing the truck just three days after his daughter and son-in-law told them what they were thinking of doing.
“With a business like this, yeah, you’re going to have overhead, but you don’t have all the things that come with owning or leasing a building,” Bambi said.
In addition to wanting a green company that gives back to the community, the Stroms have dreams as to how the business can grow.
“By our third year in business, I want to have at least two trucks,” Bambi said. “And, hopefully five when it’s all said and done.”
“Our long-term goal would definitely be to have a fleet,” Jerry agreed. He envisions one day having a truck that will only handle deliveries. His wife said getting supplies to their main truck will be an issue.
“Space is limited,” she said. “He will be purchasing ice, milk and water pretty much between every stop. Our goal is to have a truck that’s only job is to make sure he’s stocked.”
Despite a water pump problem with the truck, the Stroms were ready for this past Thursday’s inspection by the Knox County Health Department, which yielded a score of 100. Their feelings as the big opening day approached?
“Nervous, excited,” Bambi laughed. “I just feel like it’s its own animal at this point and we’re just along for the ride.”
“Tell them to always brake for coffee,” she said.