By Christine Graf
Three years ago, Tricia Nussbaum opened The Food Florist in Ballston Spa. She described her business as a mobile food company.
The Food Florist food truck she operates is available to go to farmers markets, local schools and businesses. She also sells frozen, oven-ready meals at a retail locations. All food is made from scratch with a combination of local, organic, and all-natural ingredients, she said.
Unlike traditional food trucks that serve ready-to-eat food, the Food Florist truck is equipped with freezers to hold each meal frozen ready for people to take home for dinner.
For the purchaser, “there’s no shopping and no chopping. And what I like best of all is that there are no dishes to do,” said Nussbaum.
Although she is relatively new to the area, she is not new to the food service industry.
“I’ve done this for 24 years. I was in the mid-west until three years ago when my husband accepted a job in this area,” she said.
For 17 of those years, she operated a restaurant in Bishop Hill, Ill. Because her restaurant was located in an historic village, business was seasonal. That is what prompted her to start The Food Florist.
“We would do farmers markets and make take- and-bake meals before take-and-bake was a normal thing,” said Nussbaum.
When her husband, Marty, took a job in Indianapolis, Nussbaum closed her restaurant and opened The Food Florist there. She moved her business once again when they moved to New York state.
The Food Florist operates a commercial kitchen and retail location at 3 Science St. It is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
“We are pleasantly surprised with the amount of walk-in traffic that we get because we aren’t on a main street,” said Nussbaum. “We don’t really depend on walk-in traffic, but we always make sure we have retail available. People will come in and pick up gifts for other people, and we do free gift wrapping.”
The majority of the business is done at farmers markets and mobile pop-up locations. It was by selling her products at local farmers markets, after moving to the area, that Nussbaum was able to build her business.
“I’ve always been a champion of farmers markets,” she said. “I got into markets and started talking to people and telling them what we do. It’s nice to go enjoy people and be in that environment.”
The Food Florist can be found at as many as 14 different farmers markets during the months of May and December. The majority of the area’s markets are seasonal, but those in Glens Falls, Saratoga and Troy operate year-round.
After many farmers markets close for the season, The Food Florist begins booking their pop-up locations at local schools and businesses. Pop-ups do not operate during the busy farmers market season.
“We try to be booked every day. That’s our goal as a mobile food company. We try to be on the road every day during the week,” said Nussbaum. “We have a food truck lined with freezers inside. We also pull trailers with freezers on them. We can also take coolers because everything is frozen.”
According to Nussbaum, people are excited to see The Food Florist arrive at their school or business. “When they are leaving for the day, they can just pick up a dinner to take home. It’s so fun. You pull up with the food truck and people love having the night off from cooking.”
Customers can choose between approximately 25 menu items. Chicken pot pie is the number-one seller, she said. The menu also includes a variety of lasagnas, casseroles, meatballs, quiches, brunch items and pies. There are several vegetarian and gluten-free options.
“Our food is not fancy. It’s old-style casseroles and lasagnas,” she said. “Because it is so many staple items, the selection stays mostly the same. There is a nice consistency. We don’t change things a lot, but when different things are in season, you will see different casseroles pop up.”
Most of the recipes come from the restaurant she operated in Illinois. She prides herself on using only the finest ingredients.
“I’m very against chemicals and additives. We source our items carefully to provide quality ingredients while keeping our prices very reasonable,” said Nussbaum. “We use all organic frozen vegetables. We use all local dairy products from King Brothers. We use grass-fed beef in our meatballs. The only convenience item you would find in our kitchen would be canned vine-ripened tomatoes that we use in our marinara.”
Most of the business is generated from word of mouth. The majority of the new pop-up business is a result of referrals from satisfied customers.
“Our customers market us through word of mouth to do these pop-ups,” she said.
She said the Food Florist will begin offering delivery on April 1 within a 20-minute radius of Ballston Spa. There will be a small fee for the service.
Nussbaum is exploring plans to open a second location and hire additional staff. She currently has six employees, and it is not unusual for her to work seven days a week.
Despite her busy schedule, she loves what she does. “I’ve always thought it was a privilege to own my own business. I just enjoy the fact that every day I get to get up and do what I love. And I would like to think that we are contributing to Main Street America” she said.
For more information call (518) 545-0623 or visit www.thefoodflorist.com
By Christine Graf