Ray Mazurak was studying at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver when the idea of owning and operating his own portable food stand first began to percolate in his head.
The 28-year-old saw a little burrito stand on Commercial Drive and knew right then he wanted, what he calls, a gold mine of his own.
So, fuelled by determination and a business model he likened to the successful pita pit franchise, Mazurak quickly got to work on a business plan of his own, but soon hit some logistical potholes.
“I wanted to get a stand going at UBC, but the leases for these things are like $10,000,” explains the tattoo-clad Mazurak. “So I just decided to start small and had this summer events tour planned last year. But I didn’t get my finances together in time so I just decided to start here in Whitehorse.”
Turns out the decision to come North of 60 could not have worked out better for the young entrepreneur.
This year marks his first full summer operating out of the Yukon capital city and to say the meals on wheels business has been a success would be a bold understatement.
Mazurak estimates he prepares an average of 150 burritos and soft tacos per day, with that number increasing even more on Thursday when he moves his truck and white kiosk down the road to Shipyards Park for the Farmer’s Market.
A visit to his regular place of operation at Rotary Peace Park is evidence business is good and far from simple and easy as Mazurak describes it.
Together with his right hand man, Johnny, the duo works non-stop like a well-oiled machine, scooping rice, beef, beans, chicken and guacamole onto whole wheat tortilla shells, one after the other.
“Keep it healthy and simple and everything fresh,” describes the personable Mazurak, when asked the secret to his success. “And just be nice to people, I guess that’s my secret … be nice to customers … but employees you have to crack the whip on,” he says with a laugh, as he advises his young co-worker of another eager customer waiting at the window.
For Mazurak who, along with his girlfriend calls Atlin home, the on-going success of the new business is still hard to fathom.
“Whitehorse has been so good to me,” says Mazurak, who earlier this year tried his luck, to no avail, at a couple of music festivals in Southern B.C. “Everyone likes pre-cooked hamburgers, hot dogs and corn dogs at those festivals I guess, or maybe my marketing was off or something.”
Mazurak says the case was the same when he tried to take the stand down to Victoria last winter.
“I went down there and it was just dead so I just spent the winter relaxing in Atlin.”
There was no time for Mazurak to relax at the recent Arts and Music Festival in Atlin as he and a few friends were operating the stand from the time the festival gates opened at 11:30 a.m. to the wee hours of the night.
The end result was an estimated 1,200-plus sales.
The popularity of the stand is hard to argue.
The servings are hot, fresh and large, with sour cream, guacamole and hot sauce oozing out of the foil wrapper with each bite.
The young businessman, who was studying physical education prior to his current food stand success, says his plan for the fall is to remain in Whitehorse and operate out of the newly built facility at Shipyards Park.
“I’ll be serving burritos and tacos to folks while it’s minus 40,” says Mazurak, as he wraps another burrito in foil and dishes it off to a content customer. “The plan is to then come back next year and plan a franchise and if that goes well, open up some small restaurants.”
In the meantime Mazurak and Johnny will continue serving up burritos and tacos seven days a week at Rotary Peace Park in Whitehorse.