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Meet the Merchant: Tu-Tu’s Lunch Wagon

By Luke Whittaker

The Daily Astorian

Published on April 13, 2018 4:53PM

John and Aileen Roberts have operated Tu-Tu’s lunch wagon at 1509 259th Pl. in Ocean Park seasonally for the past six years. The Roberts spent a year remodeling the 55-year-old wagon ‘from the ground up’ in their carport.

LUKE WHITTAKER

John and Aileen Roberts have operated Tu-Tu’s lunch wagon at 1509 259th Pl. in Ocean Park seasonally for the past six years. The Roberts spent a year remodeling the 55-year-old wagon ‘from the ground up’ in their carport.

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Tu-Tu’s Lunch Wagon officially opened for the season on Monday, April 2. The seasonal stand will remain open until November or December.

LUKE WHITTAKER

Tu-Tu’s Lunch Wagon officially opened for the season on Monday, April 2. The seasonal stand will remain open until November or December.

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When did first start the ‘lunch wagon’?

“This is our 6th year of being here.”

What inspired you to start the business?

“My wife (Aileen) is Hawaiian. We’ve owned restaurants in Hawaii. Over here we were doing pizza and fish and chips, that kind of stuff — but we’re old. I’m 77. We were driving around in a field in northern California and I found this old 55-year-old wagon. I just had to have it. It just looked cool. We rebuilt it and here we are.”

What did the wagon rebuild entail?

“It had to be completely rebuilt from the ground up. We did it ourselves in the carport. It took a year… new floors, walls, insulation, framing, ceiling — new everything. It’s 55-years-old. It’s like me. I like old stuff. People in the neighborhood helped out. My friend gave me the awning. It cost me a bottle of gin.”

What were your initial expectations with the lunch wagon?

“Just to help supplement our Social Security and it does that. We’re only open for lunch, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Aileen preps all morning, she makes everything from scratch.”

How many customers do you see on a typical day?

“In the summer, around 100, but sometimes up to 200, just depending on the holidays. This time of year, it’s the working people, our regulars.”

What’s the most popular item?

“The stir fry bowl. It’s fresh vegetables stir fried. It’s vegan friendly, or you can have it with the chicken, pork or beef. We sell different Hawaiian things. We have kimchi and people love it. I never thought people would buy kimchi but we sell a lot of it.”

Are you considering any additions to the menu?

“We’re thinking of adding a spinach wrap with Kahlua pork. The stir fry was the last thing we’ve added and it been really popular.”

What did you do previously?

“We had a restaurant in Hawaii on the big island. My wife loves to cook Hawaiian food, she’s been in the food business all her life.”

What’s the most challenging part?

“Just keeping everything running, but it’s not too hard. We’re used to it.”



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