Years of Open Road Led Dino and Lisa Olivieri to Entrepreneurship and Home
It's just after ten on a summer Saturday morning. The week has been warm—hot even—but today the clouds have rolled in. A week's worth of humidity has resolved into one of the few rainy days this year. I'm at Spies Park, in downtown Fergus Falls, and I'm looking for a bright orange food truck – the Lone Pine Soup Co. Owners Dino and Lisa Olivieri said they'd be parked near the Farmer's Market, and I'm here to take photographs of a sandwich wrap and a bowl of soup.
Inside the food truck, Lisa and Dino are preparing for the day's service, cleaning up from the morning's meal prep. Walking through the door feels like stepping into a commercial kitchen – which is no surprise; the workspace was designed for exactly that purpose and to all the requisite licensing requirements. In less time than it takes to attach my camera lens and check the lighting, Dino has thrown together a full meal and readied it for a closeup (featured below).
There's a calm and efficiency at work. Nothing except maybe the remarkable cleanliness of the space belies the fact this business is only a month old.
Home and Away
"Must be in our blood or something," Dino says.
Lisa's grandfather had a long-time business, Archie's, in both Fergus Falls and Dilworth. He retired at the age of 81. And Dino's father was the renowned founder of Josef's School of Hair Design, in Fargo. The couple even owned their own consignment shop years ago, but everything changed in 2011 when they sold their home and all they owned to live on the road for nearly seven years.
Dino says simply that they were tired of working for others, so they traveled the country, living with no debt and no permanent address. They spent time in Lone Pine, CA – which Lisa describes as a charming town and the filming site of 1990's Kevin Bacon classic "Tremors," of which they are fans. Winters were in Florida, picking up unconventional jobs as parking attendants for the annual Florida Strawberry Festival or as a tram driver for fairs and events.
"Which was great," Dino recalls. "You could work somewhere, make a little money. Once you started really getting bored with a job or you didn't like it, the job was over; you could move on."
It was family, then, that brought them back to Minnesota. They built a small house a few miles outside of the city limits and one day last August, talking around an evening campfire, happened into the idea for a food truck business.
Sasquatch and Soup
The couple had spent a lot of time surrounded by deep-fried carnival fare, but their business needed to offer something original, it had to stand out.
"What could we sell that's different?" Lisa asked herself. Well, soup, of course.
A bistro on wheels. Lisa had spent several years managing her mother's coffee shop, and she poured through old cookbooks and fine tuned the recipes. She spent hours scouring the web for information on licensing and regulations.
If they were starting a new business, she wanted to do it right.
The pair shopped used trucks and trailers, but most had seen too many food services and were often coated in a thick layer of food grease. They contacted a manufacturer in Florida for a bespoke build, but the distance was too far. Finally, they found a custom shop in Minneapolis. A scrawled concept on a sheet of printer paper, a little bit of back-and-forth, and what was an idea became a reality.
"Once we found somebody to build [a trailer], we were full steam after that," Dino says.
Lisa called around for a local license, eventually reaching the team at Greater Fergus Falls. There, the nascent company was paired with business development specialist Beth Pridday, herself a food truck veteran. Pridday worked with the Olivieris on business plans and booking those first venues.
"She had so much good information and advice," Dino says. "Just very helpful."
The Lone Pine Soup Co.—named for both a lone pine on a hill at their north Fergus Falls property and for the California city—celebrated its grand opening on May 13. Lisa says the response has been phenomenal both in person and via social media. While the plan is to start simple and spend more time learning than pushing boundaries in this first year, the big orange trailer will be spotted at several festivals at the Kirkbride park, the Vergas Looney Days, and regularly at locations throughout the city and county. You can find their current schedule at the company's Facebook page.
There's more to come. The Olivieris plan to offer new services, like graduation parties, weddings, and company events. They're also chasing larger festivals next year and continue to iterate on their menu, which already includes many early fan favorites.
Oh, and that Sasquatch on the flag and trailer? Well, you'll just have to ask them.
- R.C. Drews for Greater Fergus Falls
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