Ryan Brunner and Imani Augusma, fiancé and fiancée, on Monday opened the first self-propelled food truck currently based in Statesboro, Brunner Burritos & Bowls.
It is based at Stadium Walk Plaza, 200 Lanier Drive, across from Paulson Stadium. Brunner and Augusma, who with some justification call themselves the dynamic duo, have leased a portion of the plaza building as their commissary and furnished it with freezers, refrigerators and shelving for food storage. They also purchased a 2018 Ford step van that was transported from Battlefield Ford in Virginia to Food Truck South in Marietta, where it was equipped to their specifications. The cooking is all done on the truck.
"We quit our jobs to start our own thing," Brunner confirmed as the young couple - she's 25 and he's 27 - showed the reporter the truck's interior on Friday.
"To accomplish a dream," Augusma said. "We quit our jobs to do this, and we did it, and we said that we were going to do it."
They were off to a good start. The day before, the new business had received a 99 score on a Health Department inspection. Even better, at the close of their first official day of business Monday, Brunner reported that the duo had sold everything they had prepared for the day.
Jobs they quit
Their truck is probably also the only place in town wrapping up Jamaican food Tex-Mex style.
Brunner worked with Taco Bell for eight years. He started out doing cleanup, even scrubbing toilets and sweeping the parking lot at the Taco Bell beside Savannah Mall. But he advanced to preparing food and, thanks to a manager who believed in him, was promoted to cook and then to a management job, making assistant manager in two years. After working at other Taco Bell locations, including in Statesboro, he was general manager of a Taco Bell in Pooler for three and a half years.
Augusma attended Armstrong State University and then transferred to Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. She worked for Verizon for a little over a year as a solutions specialist before this entrepreneurial adventure. Brunner had been talking about it for three years when Augusma told him in September he should "write that business plan."
"I saw the potential that he had based on how successful he was in the restaurant industry, so we decided to invest in this together," she said.
Augusma was born in Orlando to a Jamaican family. She grew up on Long Island in New York and in Savannah. She does the cooking, and Brunner assembles the burritos and other finished items.
"I'm Jamaican, so that's where the Caribbean came from," she said. "I'm Caribbean, so I'm more familiar with cooking Caribbean dishes. That's all I've known, that's all I was raised with, and also his best friend is Jamaican as well."
Brunner's Taco Bell experience gave them the idea of wrapping traditional Jamaican flavors up as burritos. The bowl option is the burrito contents minus the tortilla.
Burritos & Bowls will serve a traditional Jamaican beef patty with the traditional coco bread, Augusma said. But in burrito form, it's Packa's Beef Patty-Rito, named in memory of her grandfather Packa.
Their other burritos with a Caribbean twist include the Jamaican jerk chicken, which is both sweet and spicy; the Curry Loco, which has curried chicken; and the Buffalo Souljah, with oxtail, a cut of beef traditionally used in Jamaican cuisine.
For those not so into Caribbean flavors, Brunner Burritos & Bowls also offers regular seasoned beef and seasoned chicken options, and they have a Veggie-Rito, which is vegetarian. Side items are macaroni and cheese, which is "homemade" on the truck, and nachos with cheese.
Before Monday's grand opening, Burritos & Bowls made a "soft opening" appearance Feb. 2 during the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority's "Date Night" First Friday event. They plan to drive the truck back downtown for as many First Fridays as possible.
Brunner and Augusma will also do catering with the truck. They already have a couple of jobs lined up and are talking to a local manufacturer about catering during an event that would have the food truck stationed at the factory for several days.
Meanwhile, they plan to be in Savannah for St. Patrick's Day, which will require a temporary permit there, and to work festivals in neighboring counties. They will support various charities, such as the March of Dimes, and campus organizations during fundraising events.
Not surprisingly, they look forward to football season and opening at their Lanier Drive home base for every Eagles home game.
But they also plan to serve customers at that location on many regular days. This week they planned to be open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday - but not Wednesday - from 11 a.m. until about 4 p.m., or until they sell out of food.
"We are very active on social media," Brunner said. "So that is kind of the best way to follow us as of right now. If you like us on Facebook or Instagram, we are very active on that and we'll let people know where we'll be."
He and Augusma declined to say how much they have invested in their business or how they financed it.
"We really did take a leap of faith on this," she said. "We took a very big leap, so we're hoping that everything works and we're able to serve good Caribbean food to the people here in Bulloch County."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.