By Kathy Harvatt
Kerry Meier has a passion for “feeding people” – a passion she has fully embraced as the co-owner of Low-co-Motion, a farm-to-food truck business that is fast building a loyal family of followers – not to mention a five-star rating – along the highways and byways of North Georgia.
Her journey into Atlanta’s food truck community actually began several years ago in Charleston, South Carolina, where she found her inspiration working in restaurants that specialized in Low Country “scratch cooking” with fresh, locally sourced ingredients – from produce to seafood. In fact, as Kerry is quick to point out, “the farm-to-table movement there totally changed my perspective around cooking and eating.”
After forming a partnership with two of her Charleston colleagues, Kerry put together a successful business plan for mobilizing a “restaurant business on wheels” that would serve farm-fresh, Low Country comfort food.
“Everything was coming together nicely until both of my partners conked out on me just eight weeks before the money was supposed to drop. I pouted for a year and a half after that happened.”
But fate eventually intervened when Kerry’s brother-in-law Jason Jewett, an experienced restauranteur in Atlanta, proposed that she join forces with him to get a farm-to-food truck up and running there. Intrigued by the prospect, they embarked on an exploratory mission to Charleston, which brought them even closer to sealing the deal. And less than 90 days later – on Friday the 13th, 2016, no less – a flatbed arrived in Georgia with their “Big Blue” truck on board – a lucky delivery that gave birth to Low-Co-Motion, their increasingly successful mobile food service and events catering enterprise.
According to Kerry, it is the hardest job she’s ever had. “But I also love what I do. I am essentially my own boss given that the only person I have to check in with is my partner. And I can pick and choose where and how I source my ingredients and experiment with new variations on traditional Low-Country cooking. Food is so culturally sensitive, if you will, and I really enjoy creating that connection for others.”
The Low-Co-Motion menu features an enticing assortment of sandwiches, soups and sides, made with love and a distinctly gourmet twist. For example, Kerry’s OMG BLT is anything but ho-hum, with its hand-candied brown sugar and cayenne bacon and homemade roasted garlic aioli; hydroponic Bibb lettuce and locally grown tomatoes. Likewise, Low-Co-Motion rotates its selections on a seasonal basis; and with winter almost here, Kerry is expanding their soup menu from three to eleven revolving varieties.
Of course, as with any innovative business, there are always challenges along the way to success. In the food truck industry, they are, for the most part, regulatory in nature, given that most brick and mortar restaurants view these mobile eateries as “unfair” competition, given their inherently lower overhead. So, food truck owners are often hit with regulatory fees that take a sizeable bite out of their profits.
“Here in Atlanta, you must not only be invited to park, but also pay for the privilege with permit and lot fees that can run upwards of $200 a day. On top of that, we have to have a brick and mortar commercial kitchen. Up until now, as members of the The Food Movement group, we have shared a commissary kitchen – along with a lot of mutual support – with more than a dozen other truck owners. But since we’re going to need our own space soon, we are already looking around in some of the older strip malls close to home for something we can afford.”
Still, determined to keep moving, Kerry and Jason continue to open new avenues for customized events catering – such as movie sets and corporate lunches – while also finding ways to give back to their North Georgia community by donating healthy food to those in need. As Kerrie puts it, “I loathe the idea of letting anyone go hungry – which is why feeding people is so ingrained in me. And this business allows us to do that on our terms.”
So, for now, the Low-Co-Motion partners will leave the regulatory battles to someone else, as they follow their culinary passion from the farm to the truck to the tables of Atlanta.