Local food truck hits the streets

Inspired by a creek close to his home, local business owner Aaron Zentz decided to call his newly opened food truck Hog Creek Classics.

Kirksville has the highest number of employment in Adair County. Along with bigger businesses, it is home to many locally owned stores and restaurants.

Hog Creek Classics is a local food truck that opened this summer and is owned and operated by Zentz. During operation days, which are scheduled around his full-time job, it is located in the Xpress Mart parking lot at the corner of East Jefferson and North Baltimore streets. Hog Creek Classics has a variety of food on its menu, ranging from pulled pork sandwiches to scoops of cookie dough. 

Zentz said his idea to open a food truck came to fruition last winter. He said he didn’t do a lot of prior research about the need for a food truck in the community but still sees a good amount of traffic. 

“During [the] weekday, lunch hours are pretty busy,” Zentz said. “I don’t necessarily count customers.”

Anastasia Tiedemann, small business counselor at Missouri Rural Enterprise and Innovation Center, said Kirksville has a variety of restaurants, while some of the surrounding areas don’t have many options. There isn’t a lot of local competition for this type of business, so as long as a person is creative and has a good marketing strategy, they have potential to be successful, Tiedemann said. 

To start, Zentz first purchased a trailer, remodeled it and then went through the state licensing process. To stay in business, he follows health and city codes.

Missouri has laws that are favorable for people who are looking to start a business, Tiedemann said, and the process is inexpensive and can be done online. There is a 20% chance of a business failing during the first year of operation, a 50% over five years and 70% over ten years, Tiedemann explained. 

She said for businesses to stay in operation, they need to find out how to stay at the peak of success, which can be accomplished through strategies such as targeting new audiences or creating a new product.

Thinking about a succession plan for a business is vital, Tiedemann said, which includes selling the business or passing it on to a family member. This heavily applies to small, rural towns because these businesses might be fulfilling needs, she said, and if they close, those needs are no longer being met.

Hog Creek Classics impacts the community because of the variety of food it brings, Zentz said. 

“I think it gives people an option every once in a while,” Zentz said. “It’s a little something different to try out.”

Mary Hodges, a Hog Creek Classics customer, said this food truck differs from standard brick and mortar restaurants.

“I feel like I’m getting the same quality of food as if I went in and sat down at a restaurant, but it’s so much faster,” Hodges said. “As far as a fresh, non-fast food option, it seems like a good option for me.”

As a consumer, Hodges said she looks for taste, affordability and convenience in a restaurant. 

“We all live very busy lives and if it’s not convenient, it doesn’t matter — I can’t do it,”  Hodges said.