Pop-Up Employment: My Month-Long Adventure with Boricua Soul

Boricua Soul Pop Up

If you’re not familiar with the Pop Up at ATC, the premise is a temporary space for small businesses and entrepreneurs to workshop their idea and grow their fan base. So far, two companies have participated in the program: Caballo Rojo Coffee and Boricua Soul Food Truck.

A week prior to being in the pop-up space, Serena and Toriano had the truck out at Beats & Bars Festival. This is when I found out that Boricua Soul would be the September 2018 tenant for the Pop Up at ATC and the reason for that was a post I made on Facebook about the opportunity. It was serendipitous that I joined in on the fun.

If you aren’t aware, I’m the food truck whisperer with an undefeated record of 1-0. When the Durham Food Truck Rodeo first started, I ate at the Pie Pushers truck regularly. I sang their praises to anyone who would listen. Years later, after my incessant tweeting, we were blessed with a permanent PP brick and mortar location above The Pinhook. This just goes to show that if you tweet about something long enough, it’ll come true.

Instead of sitting behind a keyboard, I decided to put my sweat into it this time. No, not the food. Metaphors, people.

The pop-up space doesn’t have a full kitchen. The previous tenant, a sandwich shop, didn’t need one. For the duration of the pop-up, Boricua Soul had to prepare the meals on the truck and serve in the restaurant. As you can see in the video below, this is where I come in. Serena commanded the checkout counter, Toriano, Jason, and Maria served up order after order and I acted as middle man. My job was to run the tickets (orders) from the pop-up space to the truck and then run the orders from the truck back into the pop-up. Back and forth, 11am - 2pm, Monday through Friday.

If I were smart, I would have gotten a FitBit or Apple Watch to keep track of my steps. Rough estimate is about 6000 per day. Twas exhausting! One afternoon, I overheard a woman from fhi360 who was sitting at the outside tables with her colleagues say “poor boy” as I burst out of the door on my way to the truck. I made sure to stop on my way back to tell her it was all worth it.

The crescendo came during the last week. Three events were taking over downtown: Black Founders Exchange, Black Wall Street Homecoming and Art of Cool Festival. My schedule went from loose to suffocating. Not only was Boricua busier but I signed up to cover the events for WRAL, writing recaps for TechWire and doing social media for Out & About. Rest was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Story deadline was 7am and final performance at AOCFEST started at 12am. Sure, it was self-inflicted. The life of a freelancer, I suppose.

It was all worth it.

I met Toriano back in 2014 at The Mothership (f.ka. Mercury Studio). Gabe and I were hosting our spring/summer Runaway release party. Toriano was guest blogging with us at Clarion Content as a food writer and photographer. Serena and their 2-year-old son Devon were there as well. It was soon after that first encounter that the two of them shared with me their idea for a Puerto Rican and soul food truck.

 Devon at 2 years old, a small child with big dreams.

Devon at 2 years old, a small child with big dreams.

 Devon at 6 years old, sensational drummer and social media superstar.

Devon at 6 years old, sensational drummer and social media superstar.

I thoroughly believe in Boricua Soul. When you work with someone this closely, you get to see how the sausage, or in this case, empanada, is made and uncover a lot about their motivations. If there was one food truck I was willing to put my unblemished 1-0 record on the line for, it’s this one. Not just because the food is delicious but because they are Durham, through and through. The entrepreneurial grit and tenacity highlighted during Black Wall Street Homecoming lives on in them, and the way they treat others and engage with the community are they values we cherish and have vowed to protect.

Participating in the Pop Up at ATC is just a chapter in this ongoing story of Boricua Soul and I am grateful to play a small character. Put your faith in them, Durham.

In the end, it will all be worth it.