By Lori DeBoer, Co-Owner
Looks aren’t everything, but first impressions count—especially for a food truck whose menu is fit for a wedding, anniversary, engagement party and other life events. Since we are serving fine French food we wanted a fine French look for the former Cheese Louise truck.
The first step was getting rid of Louise’s vinyl. That was easier said than done.
When we purchased the truck in early March, Boulder’s weather was still rainy and cold. Michael nevertheless gathered his tools and took a heat gun down to see if he could prise the vinyl off Louise. He spent half a day and didn’t make very much progress because vinyl apparently isn’t too malleable when it’s cold. “It would just break off in little pieces, it wouldn’t peel of in little strips like it did once the weather warmed up,” said Michael.
I got on the computer to do some research, and learned that there were some vinyl stripping products that we could have shipped in. But it rained and rained, and we didn’t have a spot to work indoors. So Louise sat.
By March 29, it had warmed up enough to work on the truck in earnest. Michael found a spot in North Boulder to work, which he paid for with a couple of cases of Coke and Sprite. We invested in a few tools, mostly razor blades and scrapers. Max and I also went to McGuckins and found a tool that was specifically designed to take paint off. We thought it might work for vinyl, too, but it wasn’t very effective.
To be honest, the best tool was an old-fashioned razor blade, set in a special handle. I bought McGuckins razor blad packs out. With the sun warming up the truck, Michael found that the vinyl started peeling off a little bit more easily. Work went much faster.
People were curious to see what we were up to, and stopped by to help or chat. A few people tried to buy food from Michael, even though he was dressed in grubby work clothes and had a ladder next to the truck. One interested customer was a mom with a starving kid. Being a steppops himself and having been in that situation a few times, Michael told me that if he’d had any food on hand, he would have given it to her.
Here’s Michael and our friend Dan Hayward, owner of the Savory Spice Shop in Boulder.
Power washing didn’t much help the outside, but Michael got a lot of grease and grime banished on the inside.
As the vinyl came off, we got a glimpse into Louise’s past. On the driver’s side, a handpainted mural of various seafoods was revealed. We found a swordfish, a jumbo shrimp, and a fellow who looked like he was eating a bowl of noodles. On the driver’s side, we found the lettering that led us to believe Louise had been a taco truck in her past life. We found that the vinyl had hidden some damage on the concession doors; it appeared that someone had taken a baseball bat to them. The vinyl was also holding together some broken windows.
Louise had been painted several times in her service and the vinyl started pulling off some of the paint, so it was down to bare metal. We decided to scrape everything at that point, because we didn’t want a new paint job to go over the old that would inevitably peel off within days of applying.
At this point, it was raining some more and we needed someplace where we could grind off the paint and easily clean it up. A concrete floor would work better than a gravel parking lot. So I tracked down a real estate agent who was kind enough to arrange for a company to rent us a large, indoor garage space in exchange for a company party for 40. As a startup trying to conserve our capital, we love tradouts!
Michael went to town. Sometimes he got some help from Austin Elsborg, our truck manager. It took several days to get the paint down to bare metal and Michael set up lights and worked late into the night. It was dusty work.
His mom and stepdad, Petrea and George Mah, stopped by to see what he was up to.
At a certain point, we had to get the truck up to a truck body shop in Greeley to be painted. We could only find one other truck bay large enough to hold Louise and that was in Denver. At that time, Michael was still a little nervous about driving Louise in city traffic. (He’s over that now.)
Max helped us pick a paint color called Lemon Twist. The paint company said they could match it. They had the Louise for ten days, and fixed a few dents on her. We’d hoped that they could finish painting the truck a little faster, because time was ticking and we’d already been slowed down by the fact that Louise needed a new rear brake job and a new engine. Since Louise was out running her normal route the day before we took possession, we had expected to be able to have her up and running more quickly.
I was sick when Louise was finally finished, so, on May 18, Petrea and George drove Michael up to pick up the truck. Here’s Louise in the parking lot.
We think Louise looks pretty sweet. We were happy with the color, but weren’t entirely happy with the paint job. It cost us a pretty penny ($6,000) and there were a couple of places where the paint was oversprayed and ran and the paint seems to chip easily. The paint wasn’t as glossy as they had promised, either. That said, we’re sure the paint job is going to last far longer than a full vinyl wrap, which would have cost the same money. Vinyl wrap jobs only look good for four or five years, especially when the truck isn’t garaged. We expect to run Louise for at least the next ten years.