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Mobile businesses: Office spaces on wheels fill niches in their communities

Mobile businesses can mean flexibility but also odd hours and dependence on an office that can break down much more readily than a traditional base of operations.

Angela Klobusicky was co-owner and co-operator of EZ Eatz food truck in Harrisburg for more than a year and a half and loved it, but she decided to get out of the business when the right buyer came along.

“A food truck takes up a tremendous amount of time,” Klobusicky said. “You make your money at nights and on the weekends.”

She and business partner Mike Ruell bought the truck and started the business around fall 2010, Klobusicky said.

They would go downtown when they were a couple of years younger and determined there was no good place to get a cheese steak, she said. The two decided a food truck would be a great way to fill the void.

The truck concept took off to the point where she quit her job with an adoption agency in Dauphin County to work at it full time.

What started as a nighttime project evolved into weekends and lunchtime hours as well, Klobusicky said.

Eventually, it became too much with their other endeavors, including Commonwealth Construction and Renovations and Ruell’s Lawncare, a lawn care, hardscapes and landscapes business.

The two owners sold the truck to a new proprietor in the Scranton market, where Klobusicky is originally from, she said.

“It was a bittersweet day. I loved that truck,” Klobusicky said. “I probably learned more than what you could learn in the four years of business school.”

Christine Hess started Urban Olive in Lancaster after she was involved with a Mediterranean-style restaurant business in Virginia and decided to move back home.

She thought of it as a way to start and operate a restaurant without quite the commitment and financial investment as with a traditional restaurant setup, Hess said.

Urban Olive launched about two years ago and operated until recently only in parts of the city outside the downtown, she said.

There are a limited number of permits to operate downtown, Hess said, and she received hers a few months ago.

It’s proven to be a popular attraction as more people have become familiar with the setups — which includes watching shows on the Food Network — though the weather can affect sales, she said.

“I don’t see the foot traffic on the hot days as I do on the days that it’s not so hot,” Hess said.

In addition, she said, she wishes she knew more mechanical skills, considering the age of her truck.

Hess augments the truck business with catering, and the two help gain exposure for each other.

Not all mobile businesses sell food.

Dr. Sharon Daub started Lancaster Township-based P*A*W*S* Mobile Veterinary Care as a way to have more flexibility as a parent and to spend more time with her patients.

Daub graduated from Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine in the early 1990s and spent about a decade in a traditional veterinary practice office setting, where she felt rushed and not as connected as she could have been to her patients.

Once she bought her truck in 2002 and got into business, she said, the idea of a veterinarian visiting homes caught on in her part of Lancaster County.

“I could make more money if I saw more appointments in faster times, but I just feel that I do better medicine by spending more time with them and getting to know them better,” Daub said.

Bad weather conditions and flat tires are among the impediments to operating from a truck, but patients are understanding, she said.

Daub did some initial advertising through dropping pamphlets at pet stores and retirement communities.

But the best way to attract customers has been word-of-mouth and the fact that she drives around an office that is “26 feet long and has my name on the side.”

Brent Burkey

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