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B2B ID: Jimmy Tarr, Owner/chef, The Bistro Bus, Northampton

NAME: Jimmy Tarr

TITLE: Owner/chef, The Bistro Bus, based in Hatfield, serving the Northampton area

WEBSITE: www.bistrobus413.com

WHEN THE BUSINESS STARTED: 2013

HOW MANY ON YOUR STAFF: Two

WHAT YOU DO: We feed the Valley delicious cuisine in a unique and exciting way. The Bistro Bus can found in various locations around the Valley for an impromptu lunch, and the bus can also cater any event. Food trucks are the “new way to cater” and add an entertaining atmosphere to any event.

EXPERIENCE I have over 40 years of cooking experience, starting at the Yankee Pedlar in Holyoke in 1970. From there, my wife and partner, Betsy, and I owned and ran the Mountain Tavern and Restaurant in Tiller, Oregon, from 1975 to 1980. We have owned and operated Special Requests Catering in Hatfield for the last 27 years. After 26 years, we expanded our horizons and put our food truck, The Bistro Bus, on the road last year. We utilized our years of experience and got in on the ground floor of this great new food trend. We literally “took it to the streets.”

THE MARKET: Anyone and everyone who likes to eat delicious food in a new and unique way.

HOW YOU REACH OUT TO IT: We reach customers through a combination of social media, traditional marketing, community events and word of mouth.

WHAT FINANCING HURDLES HAVE YOU FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THEM? The hurdles that we’ve faced have been the initial outlay of money to start up a new business and the subsequent expenses that we didn’t anticipate and had to self-finance. Most of these expenses were mechanical issues with our food truck vehicle. We were forced to take the truck off of the road and pay out of pocket for repairs.

KEY TO SUCCESS: Our business has been built on a foundation of hard work, high-quality food and attention to customer service, which has earned us reputation as honest, caring business owners.

CHALLENGES: Educating the general public and local towns to the attributes of the food truck industry, which is held to the same high standards as the restaurant industry.

MISSTEP YOU LEARNED FROM: Not fully understanding the challenges of getting into a new industry on the ground floor in the Pioneer Valley.

WHAT OTHERS COULD LEARN FROM YOU: When starting a business, be sure to research unforeseen and marginal costs associated with starting a new business.

WHO HELPED MENTOR YOU PROFESSIONALLY: The Valley CDC, Gillette Restaurant Supply and the Great Food Truck race on the Food Network!

TOP GOALS FOR 2014: Increase our community presence and exposure in the Valley and to educate people about the attributes of food trucks. Food trucks offer quality food quickly as an alternative to fast food or a sit down restaurant. There is a very special social aspect to food trucks. Our customers get face-to-face contact both with us and with other customers.

ADVICE FOR OTHERS SEEKING BUSINESS SUCCESS: Follow your dreams with your eyes wide open and a big dose of reality.

PARTING THOUGHT: You are never too young or too old to follow your dreams. Believe in yourself!

The B2B ID is compiled by Janice Beetle of Beetle Press in Easthampton, a PR and communications firm. To suggest a subject for B2B ID, email Beetle at beetlepress@charter.net.

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