On Capitalism, Community, and a Crusty Ham

Posted by James Collier on Apr 16, 2013
Filed: Random Things
Tagged: Dusty Buns fresno brewing company noise rants the cured ham

Warning: this is a rant. A half-drunken one at that. There are explicatives. None involving the baby in the photo above--she's there to remind you, and me, that this post is about people.

Wait, before we get started: I've been quiet lately. That's due to some significant life changes, including changes to the structure of my business. But it's also due to a shift in priorities: from talking about food, and community, to getting hands-on, and cooking. Cooking for people. Cooking with people. And eating, but that's always been a priority.

As I write this, I'm kicking off my shoes and shedding my pork-drenched clothes from a night in the kitchen at Fresno Brewing Company, slinging carnitas tacos to raise a few bucks for my friends over at Dusty Buns Dustin and Kristin. See, the truck they own is out of commission from a blown engine; after hearing about this, a plot came together to help raise the funds to fix it. Dustin and Kristin weren't involved in the conceptualization, but a few close friends--and fans--were.

So, we made tacos. And poured beer. And collected a few silent auction items. Easy enough, right? Seems innocent, kind-hearted, and a good excuse to drink on Monday, no? Not to everyone, it would seem.

Turns out that my buddy The Cured Ham David took issue with tonight's event. It's not capitalistism, he says. There are other trucks that have faced issues without the community's help, he points out. (He neglects the fact that the truck he refers to drew $20,000 from the community through an initial Kickstarter plea.) "[S]ome win and some lose," he informs us.

Yawn.

David has a hard on for Dusty Buns--the business is one of his favorites to reference, and though his latest post concludes by ensuring his readers that he wishes them the best, he's been far from supportive in expressing his thoughts. I'd link off to David's site for further insight, but since I'm half-drunk and a little riled up, I figure it's better to just quote it and respond here.

When I heard that Dusty Buns blew their engine out on their food truck, my first thought was bummer, but at least they’ve got the Bistro and the Jeep as a back-up. They’ll survive.

When I see on Twitter @BenaddictionTrk has chronic problems with their generator and not able to roll on a Saturday, again, I think bummer, they’re not going to make any money that day.

When I noticed that @Takobbq actually run out of food at an event, I think, good for them, they must be selling a lot of food or alternatively, they better get their ordering nailed down a little better.

So caring.

We’ve read about several restaurant failures in Fresno in the last 12 months. Each failure had its reasons. One common problem is not being able to pay rent or employees because cash flow is poor. And often times equipment failure in the middle of service comes up or even the dreaded kitchen fire. These are the breaks in the restaurant business. The business either finds funding to fix the problem or they go out of business.

Wait, how many kitchen fires have there been? Am I missing something? How many equipment failures have been cited as the downfall of a business? OMG, is that what happened to The Venue?!

But not always it seems.

Good use of suspense. Tell me more.

The concept of Too Big To Fail has come up in the Great Recession in direct reference to the banking sector. The concept states that some banks are simply so big, they can’t be allowed to fail because of the impact they would have on the economy as a whole. During the banking crisis, the argument went, if Citibank fails, there would be dramatic effects across the entire planet. However, there are winners and losers, Lehman Brothers, albeit big, was allowed to fail.

Fresno’s Food Truck scene seems to have the equivalent of Citibank…Dusty Buns.

What. The. Fuck. Really, David?! Dusty Buns is being compared to Citibank? You just jumped the shark.

You're making a comparison between a company so large--so emotionally disconnected from it's customer base--that its downfall could (reportedly) have negative impact on the entire country, to a tiny family-run business that is scratching and clawing it's way through the apathy and disconnect of our community to provide something they feel is good and necessary? Who hurt you, David? 

Dusty Buns, Fresno’s beloved, first gourmet food truck seems to be Too Big to Fail. As their engine blew out beyond repair in the last week, I have seen two “bailouts” or in this case unsolicited benefits show up on Facebook and Twitter.

The first "benefit" comes from a collective group of citizens and Fresno Brewing Company on the Fulton Mall. The S.O.B. or Save Our Dusty Buns “benefit” is being held at the brewery with “all proceeds for the evening go to fixing the Bistro Bus”.

As one of the organizers of the event, I'm not exactly sure what your point is here. And why the abusive use of quotations? We threw a party to "benefit" our friends, who have offered their support to each of us, and who regularly inspire. Get over it.

The second “benefit” comes from a competing food truck, Summertime Pies. They offered their trailer to help with Dusty Buns service at Bella Frutta on Saturday. A competing food truck, helping the competition? To quote Chevy Chase in Caddyshack, “we're not it Russia, are we Danny?”

I’m sure Yosemite Ranch would help out Five or Campagnia if they needed something on a busy Friday night. NOT! It’s called Capitalism, some win and some lose. But as we’ve seen during the Great Recession, those principals are not so black and white anymore. Sometimes winners and losers can be chosen.

Let me make sure I'm understanding you correctly: You're complaining that a local business is helping out another? Am I reading that correctly?

Sure, that's not common. And you're right: Five and Campagnia probably wouldn't see support from Yosemite Ranch in such a scenario, but they're not exactly comparable--because of the size of the business, and it's nature. Dusty Buns has paved a way for other food trucks in this community, including Summertime Pies, and the owners have busted their ass to create a local movement. How about crediting them for the inception of CartHop, where other trucks (including Benaddiction) gain access to larger base of potential customers?

Show me comparable collaboration and leadership among brick and mortar restaurants, then we can compare local, organic apples to apples. (Or apples to Citibank.)

Where is the “benefit” for @BenaddictionTrk and their failing generator on Saturday? Where is the “spare” generator for them from a community benefactor who likes to Eat Local? Where is all of the collective goodness, food truck love, community support and eat local/shop local for @BenaddictionTrk? @BenaddictionTrk will be rolling this week, based upon their tweets and getting the generator fixed without any community support. Good for them. And no thanks to anyone else except them!

Right. No support from the community for Benaddiction.

As an aside, I did enjoy my Fat Bottomed Grilled Cheese for Benaddiction on Friday.

As an aside, that sandwich must not be something your brother can do at home.

There is no magical benefit for @BenaddictionTrk generator problems. Just like there weren’t any benefits for any other restaurant last year in Fresno. Sorry Benaddiction, you came too late to the food truck game. Fresno foodies love you, just not as much as Dusty Buns. Remember that if you ever need an engine…you’re on your own, no one is going to help you.

Who decides that Dusty gets a "benefit"and Benaddition doesn't? And why? Dusty isn't a non-profit in need of donations. Dusty is a for-profit business in need of a growing customer base. They've got a good base as it is, the "benefit" as I see it...GROW THE BASE!

Who decides? Ephiram, Anastasia, and me. That's the group that sat around, enjoying a mid-week beer, contemplating ways to keep our friends rolling. We didn't even have to ask others to pitch in--they offered, after just mentioning the idea. Dustin and Kristin didn't ask for our help, but we offered it.

That's not capitalism, it's community.

David, you're well-connected. You know people in restaurants. You could easily coordinate such an effort for Benaddiction, or any other for-profit business.

So who decides? You could, if you were so moved. But questioning the kindness of others takes far less effort.

What I find the most “odd” about BOTH Dusty Bun’s benefits is, why hasn’t there been an effort to PACK the BISTRO full of customers and open for lunch? That is the most direct and simplest effort I can think of, other than cutting Dusty a check. Why are surrogates promoting a benefits, or as one blogger friend of mine put it “Saving the Clocktower”, in reference to Back to the Future. Dusty has a Bistro, why do I need to go to Fresno Brewing for a benefit? Have a “Bun In at The Bistro” to help buy a new engine complete with Street Faire and jugglers. The Bunists will support it. I saw some promotion from Creative Fresno on the topic, so there are definitely ways to cross-market at Dusty Buns Bistro location. And guess what, it has the added benefit of showing people that Dusty has a brick and mortar business.

My postings regarding Dusty Buns over the years have always been critical but fair. I continue to believe that they provide a valuable product to the community and have always wished them continued success. As a fellow, local business owner, I too understand that equipment fails, things don’t always go according to plan, and that sometimes you have to play a bad hand. I have no issue with Dusty Buns and I wish them the best through this time of need.

You want to help Dusty Buns…eat at the Bistro. And maybe Dusty Buns, this is an excellent time to open the Bistro during lunch and promote the hell out of it.

Ugh, again with the "quotes." What I find "odd" is that you give such a fuck about any of this. Want to help Dusty Buns? Yes, go eat at the bistro! We never asked anyone not to do this. But, you'll have to wait till Wednesday to do so, because that's when they open for the week, which is why we "chose" a Monday to host the party.

Just for fun, though, here's a little math: at $5 per bun, and assuming a 30% profit margin (which we both know isn't reality here), you'll need to buy 1,000 of them to match what we raised last night by eating tacos and drinking with friends. 

Speaking of friends, I should head back. The beer is still flowing and people are celebrating each others' company. And eating cabbage soaked in the fat and liquid left over from all the pork. I'd invite you to join us, but I know how much you hate coming downtown.

Love and pork fat,
James