While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought its challenges, some have found opportunity. One business has found a silver lining and the chance to introduce a new service.
Rustic Milling & Craft was founded in 2016 by Ray and Rose Mapel. The company focuses on sawmill services, local lumber, barn quilts, supplies, workshops, creative classes, art and handmade gifts.
“I love to share and encourage others to be creative,” Rose said.
She has “always loved art” and her earliest memory of creating it was with her Aunt Lillie.
“We were drawing and coloring people with crayons,” she recalled. “My aunt drew ringlets on the girls, and I would copy it. I loved it.”
In 2020, the couple moved the business from Cozad to Eustis after purchasing the old lumberyard in town.
Ray and Rose worked to renovate the building and add a gift shop, art studio, pottery studio and classroom. Rose continued to offer art classes across Nebraska with plans for classes at the business once renovations were complete. When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the area, many businesses found themselves temporarily closing their doors or changing how they conducted business.
“Somehow we managed to keep our head above water and move on,” Rose said. “We had website sales to sustain us and were still able to do some commission work while working on renovations. All of the income from our classes and opportunity for outreach were gone.”
After reflecting, Rose said, “If it was not for the pandemic, we’d still be behind on renovation work. It gave us time to prepare. It also gave us some time to look at our business plan and dream up some ways we could ‘COVID proof’ it.”
The plan: A food truck.
“Ray’s love of food comes from his mother, Eileen. She was an excellent cook,” Rose said with a thoughtful smile. “It was their dream to open a restaurant together. Coming up with the idea of a food truck is keeping their dream alive.”
Ray is described as a “creative cook” and has previous experience in the restaurant industry.
“And,” Rose added, “people need to eat. The food truck allows us the flexibility to offer another service for our customers and potentially reach new ones.”
The food truck, named Rustic Eats & Treats, is scheduled to launch later this year. The plan is to use local produce and food products, Eileen’s recipes and Ray’s original dishes. Some menu items noted on the website include tacos, dumplings, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, low carb, treats and a waffle cone dessert. The dessert is described as a fish-shaped waffle cone with a variety of sweet toppings like strawberries, chocolate and ice cream. The menu will rotate, and they will not offer all these options at the same time.
The couple has purchased a food truck and is constructing the interior. Once complete, the truck will be inspected. Ray and Rose will go through the necessary training to handle and serve food. The food truck will travel to surrounding communities.
Whether it is creating a unique piece of art, teaching a barn quilt class, or crafting the perfect savory food, the Mapels focus on quality.
“We want to do it right and we want it to last.”
For updates on the Rustic Eats & Treats Food Truck, visit their website or find them on Facebook and Instagram. To learn more about Rustic Milling & Craft and to see a list of upcoming classes, visit their website or find them on Facebook and Instagram.