Most food trucks are what Josh Romaker refers to wryly as "cake decorating."
"You go down to the food truck scene, there’ll be a whole street just lined with food trucks, and the only thing that separates it from the next one is the graphics or the stickers on the side of it. I kinda sometimes joke around and call that cake decorating," Romaker said. "You know, anybody can put stickers on a truck."
Romaker is the founder of Caged Crow Fabrication, a company that builds custom food carts where the goal is to go a lot farther than stickers every time.
"Everything we do is from the frame up," Romaker said. "And I guess you could say we specialize in themed carts. If somebody wants it to look like a pirate ship, let’s say, with a kitchen inside, we’ll build it."
Some recent commissions include a catering van with a fully retractable roof, a 1972 Winnebago trailer being converted into a mobile retail boutique, and a hot rod-themed school bus kitchen and dining area.
Romaker wasn’t always in this niche line of work, and he actually got into it by accident. Caged Crow used to be a standard welding and metal fabrications shop. One day, a customer asked them to build a small food concession trailer. The shop got some media attention, and since then, business has been steady. The shop completes about one order every six weeks, Romaker said.
Caged Crow really got its start with the Madison food truck scene, though Romaker is based in St. Germain now — his family moved there to a family cabin after a house fire in Madison.
"We really started in Madison. We have, I think, 10 or 11 food carts downtown Madison that we’ve built," he said. "So if it wasn’t for Madison’s food cart scene, we wouldn’t be here today."
Now, the company gets most of its business outside of Wisconsin, across the country and even some internationally, as well.
Romaker enjoys the challenge of making people’s ideas a reality.
"You’re constantly learning. This business is nothing but problem solving. You’re building a full kitchen to roll down the road," he said. "In a standard commercial kitchen at a restaurant, everything’s just stationary. You don’t have to hold equipment down, or all of that mess. So you’re constantly thinking of clever ways how to make things safer and better. And each one that we build, we learn more and more."