The Food Biz: Mooving up

Funded by a microfinance website, Belmont duo takes a stab at mobile milkshakes. Also: Monell’s adds fourth location [From our print edition featured in Monday’s City Paper]

Mobile food trucks can be a low-overhead way for restaurateurs to try a concept before investing big money to develop it. For example, Teresa Mason of Mas Tacos tested her recipes and execution by running a taco truck for a couple years before opening a bricks-and-mortar cafe in East Nashville.

With Nashville at the center of a food truck craze that has already swept through larger cities, it’s become clear that such projects can also be a proving ground for young entrepreneurs. In the case of Moovers and Shakers, a mobile milkshake business, it’s two Belmont University sophomores.

Ale Delgado and Hayden Coleman are music business management majors who teamed up to try to turn a passion for ice cream parlors into a viable venture.

They worked up a business plan that earned them second place – and $2,000 – in a campus competition. They then turned to Kickstarter, a microfinance website that allows would-be entrepreneurs to ask the general public for investment. Though it was a close shave, they managed to get enough pledges by the deadline to meet the $5,000 goal, which allowed the project to go forward.

The Moovers and Shakers concept starts with hand-dipped vanilla and chocolate shakes, which can be topped and swirled in the cup with other ingredients (say, maple syrup or peanut butter) to produce creative variations. And they’ll have no shortage of those.

“One of the rewards on Kickstarter was that people who gave a certain amount got to have a shake named after them or come up with a shake flavor,” Delgado says. She adds that 57 people qualified for that list.

The financing is allowing them to get a custom vehicle from a company in North Carolina that specializes in food trucks, but it hasn’t yet been delivered. As finals approached last week, the two held a kickoff party on campus anyway, and hundreds lined up to listen to local bands and buy milkshakes, along with food from two other popular trucks, Grilled Cheeserie and Pizza Buds.

The pair will be announcing appearances via their website, Facebook and Twitter.

Delgado, who is studying music business marketing and has an internship at indie label Infinity Cat, and Coleman, who’s a spoken-word artist and rapper, say they will hit the milkshake circuit hard this summer, then scale back to catering and special events in the fall when classes and other activities take priority.

Monell's grows

Monell’s, which offers family-style service and all-you-can-eat Southern food, has become something of a landmark in Germantown over the past 17 years. And now it’s taken over a landmark with a history that dates back to the 1890s.

From 1977 until 2008, the house at 1400 Murfreesboro Road next to the airport was New Orleans Manor, a buffet restaurant. Before that it was the Colemere Club, a private club where big wigs did their dealing and once a year the grounds were opened for a massive community Easter egg hunt. The estate started out as a mansion for an L&N railroad tycoon (the 19th-century house burned in 1929 and was rebuilt in 1931, becoming the Colemere Club in 1948).

In other words, the house has a memorable place in Nashville history. Michael King, Monell’s owner, reopened it on Easter Sunday, and he says quite a few customers who showed up that day were older folks who vividly remembered searching the lawns for the elusive Golden Egg.

The new Monell’s serves a similar menu as the other locations in Germantown, Gallatin and Berry Hill. (The latter is an express location. King has tried other locations over the years, but these three remain.) There’s a rotating lineup of Southern meat-and-three specials, and country breakfast on weekends.

King says the new place will be his center for special events like weddings — he can accommodate up to 350 people — as well as Victorian Christmas dinners, and starting next year, an Easter egg hunt.