A young Phoenix couple’s dream of starting an environmentally responsible business came to life earlier this year with the start of their Mexican food truck, Mamacita.
Itzel Arvizu, 27, and Mitchell Wiewel, 28, owned and ran a restaurant in Flagstaff, but closed it down in October 2014 when the couple found out they were expecting a child and wanted to be closer to family in Phoenix.
“We really got motivated to start another business,” Wiewel said. “That was our dream, the food truck and the way we did it is proof that you can make something out of nothing.”
The truck belonged to a woman in Sedona who intended on using it to start a wedding pastry business. The truck didn’t run, but Wiewel used his father-in-law’s auto body shop to reconstruct the vehicle from scratch over the course of a year.
“We came across this food truck that wasn’t even running,” Arvizu said. “It was from 1962 and it was abandoned. We started from zero.”
Wiewel worked a couple different jobs and put a portion of the money he earned from each paycheck toward their dream. Little by little, the pieces started falling into place.
“We did a Kickstarter because we thought we only needed a certain amount,” Wiewel said. “That went really well and it worked, but then we had more mechanical issues. Then the Health Department needed us to do more things to get it within code. It took even more money than we anticipated, so the project kept getting put on hold.”
Wiewel and Arvizu wanted to make a food truck that was environmentally conscious and compassionate to animals while forging strong ties to their community.
“We are getting all our produce from a local farm, McClendon’s Select, and it’s all going to be organic,” Arvizu said. “Things that we have to outsource, like our bread, we are getting from Noble Bread. We are trying to be part of the community and stay as local as possible. Our food is going to be plant-based. Basically what I am trying to do is provide those comfort Mexican foods that are deep in tradition and just make them available to everyone.”
These kinds of traditional Mexican foods come in part from family recipes.
“Itzel’s enchilada sauce is handed down from her grandma,” Wiewel said.
The couple describe themselves as “flexatarian,” bouncing back and forth between eating meat and being vegetarians. A self-described “health nut,” Arvizu is familiar with cooking vegan food and said she experiments with “veganizing” different meals.
“I was really into plant-based food for health reasons, and just recently I started getting into the ethical side, and that is when I decided to commit 100 percent,” Arvizu said. “After that I was like ‘I can’t serve meat anymore.’ I know it’s not for everyone, but I want to make it so (anyone can) be able to eat and be satisfied. It’s been so fun for me, I feel like I’ve had to be more creative.”
Wiewel and Arvizu also hope to be sustainable in their energy usage. They have a generator and hope to convert to solar in the near future.
“We are going to try to make this so sustainable and have as little of a footprint as possible,” Wiewel said.
They already have support from local businesses and the community and have lined up a few locations, including Wren House Brewing Co., to get things going.
“I love vegan food. It’s hard to find, and to find it right at my finger tips and fast is going to be a real treat,” said Phoenix resident Emily Cutting.
Arvizu said they are in the process of joining the food truck coalition and hope to work some farmers markets as well as Food Truck Fridays.
“We are just doing our part in this world,” Arvizu said. “Cooking plant-based food, connecting with local farmers and connecting with local business — that way we can all succeed and thrive together.”
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