Sometimes, there really is a silver lining.
When the pandemic shut everything down in March, Special Ed teacher Amanda Cotier began teaching remotely from her Boothbay home. Amanda did her best, but it was not easy; separation from her students weighed heavily on her.
“It was really hard sitting in front of a computer at home when I knew I should be with my kids,” she says.
Helping her through the otherwise difficult weeks, however, was a long-time dream beginning to take shape: owning her own business, in the form of a food truck.
“It was a dream I had years ago. I thought, ‘That would be really fun to do,’ though I never really thought it would happen.”
But on July 1, 2020, her Coastal Crave Food Truck slid open its order window for the first time. It has garnered rave reviews and a loyal following in the weeks since.
Amanda is the first person to say she wouldn’t have been able to make her dream reality without support from her family and the community.
The idea first took shape earlier this year during conversations with her aunt Marie Kelley, owner of Southport’s Sweet Dreams Bakery. They didn’t explore it seriously until Marie’s husband Jamey noticed a truck for sale on Facebook Marketplace. Though that sale didn’t work out, Amanda got excited and began hunting for another one. In a stroke of luck, another vendor had just upgraded his truck.
“We went to look at his old one, and bought it on the spot. It was set up as a food truck already, so it was perfect,” she says. It was even her favorite color—bright blue.
The pandemic erupted just as Amanda got rolling on her plan, and though the shut-down hurt many local businesses, it actually ended up being a good thing for her.
“It was the perfect time to start a food truck,” she says, noting that food trucks address today’s physical distancing requirements naturally.
A major decision was where to locate the truck, and her family came to the rescue once again (there’s a theme here). The Kelleys’ property at 434 Hendricks Hill Road, near the Southport roundabout, proved the perfect spot, with ample parking and good visibility from the road.
The solution made sense for another reason, too: Amanda’s family has been serving Southport and surrounding communities for generations.
“My mom is from Southport. Her family was involved with opening the first Southport store, and they were some of the first people on the island,” she says, recognizing that she comes by her instinct to serve the community naturally.
“My grandma (who passed away a couple years ago) and my grandpa are the kindest people I’ve ever met. They volunteered to help with things in town all the time. It’s something everyone in my family does, and it’s ingrained in me as well,” she says, speaking lovingly of Southport natives Ralva and Ronald Orchard.
Despite her strong local ties, Amanda knew that change isn’t always easy in small towns, and she wondered if she’d meet resistance.
“I was worried that I’d get some negative feedback. I set up a Facebook page early, saying, ‘This is what’s happening’ so everyone would know,” she says. To her delight, the responses have been great.
“Everyone has had positive feedback and seems super appreciative. I’ve also heard from the working folks that it’s nice for them to have another option.” (Amanda is quick to point out that her intention is to expand the choices in the area: “I don’t want to compete — I want to provide another option.”)
And just as they were there to help refine the original idea, her family has been Amanda’s central support as she launches Coastal Crave: Her aunt makes the bread, cookies and other treats. Her uncle helps with technical issues and is the “man behind the scenes.” Another aunt provided the round tables in the seating area, and her parents donated some of the chairs. It’s clearly a family affair, and it’s a welcome addition on the island.
“People want businesses like this right now. People are pushing for it, because it’s more safe to be outside, and these sorts of food trucks are lending themselves to that really nicely,” she says. That suits her just fine, since it also fulfills her main goal in life: “I want to make people happy. That’s my big thing.”
At a time when it’s easy to be overwhelmed thinking about all we have lost during this hard and strange summer, Amanda and her dream-come-true food truck offer a bright spot of good news. It’s a story of family devotion, of taking a chance, and of having faith in her community.
Stop by to say hi and try her tasty creations!
Located between the Southport post office and school, the Coastal Crave Food Truck is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For news and updates, follow the business on Facebook.