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RSW Living Magazine

Community Helps Get JewBan's Back Up and Running After Tragic Hit-and-run Accident

Mar 26, 2018 10:15AM ● By Kevin
Julie Dana and Ray Garcia, owners of the popular Jewish/Cuban food truck, JewBan's Deli Dàle, learned a lot about the communities they serve, recently. After experiencing a hit-and-run accident that totaled their food truck and the Jeep they use to haul it, the community - including local businesses and other food trucks - rallied for the cause, raising about $4,500 to get them back on their feet and serving the community at full capacity once again.

Dana and Garcia put out a special message on their Facebook page to shout out everyone who helped them over the course of the past month:

"Ok all... we are rolling. Food Truck. Check. Jeep. Check. Amazing support love generosity & kindness from our community, friends, colleagues, fellow food truckers, customers & family. CHECK! This would not have been possible without the help of you all," a Facebook post said on March 12. The truck was back up and running at full capacity the next day. 

"Amber & Kyle from Millennial Brewing Business Partners @millennialbrewing thank you for the bottom of our hearts for jumping in, setting up a gofundme account and making the first donation, the press and getting others involved. We love you guys and are forever grateful. Brian & Kate from Momentum Brewhouse for putting together the fundraiser to help get JewBan's back up and you personal kindness & generosity. We love you guys & are so honored to be part of the Momentum Family. Danee & Matt from @oilwellcraftbeer thank you for your love generosity and for the fundraiser to help JewBan's. We were so surprised! Love & Friends from first sight! We love you guys. Alan & Nev from @ellocal how do we thank you for donating a special taco & it's proceeds? We love yall... & your tacos! Larry & Shannon from @larryscheesecakeco we thank you for blessing us with your generosity and love and we don't even know what to say! Love you both so much. Carol & Carl & Natasha from @thebritpit, who does that? Follows us (incognito) to our first Gig with our new food truck & rental truck to make sure we are safe, and help setting up and helping us to get JewBan's #2 up & ready! You guys are amazing! We love you 3. To every single person who took time to send good wishes, prayers & love to us, and for every penny you all donated.... you have all changed us forever. We are deeply touched and so incredibly grateful. God Bless. NOW LET'S EAT! Stay tuned for details on our Thank You party for YOU!"

We caught up with Julie and Ray to talk about the accident, the history of their business, and future plans in a special Q&A.

RSW Living Magazine: Tell us how you got started and built the business.

Ray Garcia: We started in 2015 and always loved to cook by watching our grandmothers, or like we say in Jewish our "Bubbe." What we do is 99 to 100 percent are our grandmother's recipes. We used to cook for parties and friends, and people liked our food. We thought it'd be fun to do this for retirement.

Julie Dana: Everything we cook is really family recipes, comfort foods. These recipes are at least three generations old. Ray was asked to be in a cookbook and he was all excited. They asked if we could tell them the recipe and he said, 'I can't do that!' My chicken soup is five generations old. Nothing's written down, it's all been passed down hand to hand.

RSW Living: So, what did you do before this?

Dana: We were in Corporate America with Marriot for the majority of our careers. We always wanted to open a Jewish and Cuban restaurant, because both cultures are all about food, fun and, family. I was born in Philadelphia of Jewish heritage, and moved to Florida when I was 11. Ray was born in Camagüey in Cuba.

When it got down to it, it was too expensive to do a brick and mortar off the bat, especially not knowing if it would be a hit. So, we decided to do a food truck. The original intention was to retire and just do Cubans and pastrami, and just take it easy, lay at the beach, and have some fun. As it turns out, we work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, so something went terribly awry!

RSW Living: What would you say was the key to your success?

Dana: The best answer is a leap of faith. We didn't know what we were doing, as a matter of fact, everything was trial and error. We knew how to cook and that was it. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We just found our way back through it.

My only regret on all of this is not starting a blog on day one. It would've been a great education for anyone following. It looks really easy, but usually just once a week, someone is standing at the food truck and says they want to open a food truck. We look at them and start laughing. We want to help them anyway we can, of course, but it's not what anyone expects. You're the mechanic, shopper, dishwasher, human resources, prepping food, the sue chef, the event coordinator, the promoter, the public relations, the marketer ... oh, and did I mention the dishwasher?

There's a lot involved. When you look at it, you don't think it's all there until you get to it. We've been very blessed, because people seem to love what we do. So, we don't have to bang on doors to get gigs and we're very thankful for that.

RSW Living: What have you learned in these three years?

Dana: What we learned about and how we sit in our community through all of this has changed us forever in a good way, because of the outpouring of support, fundraising, people jumping in to help us, calling the events we had planned and them saying, 'We heard! Don't reschedule! Do it out of the back of your car! We love your food, so we don't care!'

We did a makeshift, invisible food truck for a few weeks and nobody cared. People would come by and put money in the tip jar and say, 'This is for your GoFundMe.' All the comments people have written, I can't even find words. We'll never be the same from it, because our little food truck made such an impact on the community.

Garcia: It was an overwhelming response in a good way.

RSW Living: Tell us about the night of the accident.

Dana: It happened at 11 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 17. We were on our way from a great event at Bone Hook Brewing. It was a super night. The Woodwork was playing and they had just finished their last set. They were sitting down outside eating with us, laughing, they gave us a CD to listen to on the way home.

We were on 75 South and talking about how much fun the night was. As I was texting (as a passenger) our lovely assistant, Carla, thanking her for a job well done, we got slammed right in the driver side of the Jeep. The phone flew out of my hand. Neither one of us had any idea what happened. You could hear metal scraping. We didn't know where we were, because we were spinning on the highway. The food trailer was having a tug of war about which way to go. It sounded like we were hitting other cars, but we couldn't tell. We felt a massive pull, spun a few more times, and then stopped spinning. We were facing head on in the southbound lane, shortly before Exit 105.

After realizing we were both OK, we tried to get out of the car, but the door wouldn't open. We saw the car that hit us take off. We were in shock. Ray drove to the side of the road and we looked back and saw our food trailer on its side about 50-100 feet behind us. There was cookware on the highway. There were styrofoam plates on the highway, plastic flatware, aluminum foil, because everything had flown out of the truck.

These angels came out of nowhere, drove around next to us and shined their lights toward oncoming traffic so people could see the debris on the road and waited for the police to get there. We found our phones and called 9-1-1, but by the time we did, passerby's already called. The ambulance got there and they said people were chasing the people who took off. Our friend working with us that night met us on the highway. After everything was said and done, they towed the food truck and we drove the Jeep home about 10 miles per hour, because it was loaded with stuff and our friend followed us home.

We got to bed around 5 a.m., and the next day, we woke up to our phones and social media blowing up. Amber and Kyle Cebull from Millennial Brewing Company put up a GoFundMe, and other folks started fundraisers. That day was a blur. The following Monday, we started working with insurance and then started running around putting things back together.

RSW Living: So, the fundraising efforts were made by other businesses in the community?

Dana: We didn't do anything, it was done for us. That's why we're so mind-boggled by it. We were still in shock and Amber and Kyle had already set up a GoFundMe page. Brian and Kate, proprietors of the Momentum Brewhouse did a fundraiser. Danee and Matt of Oil Well Craft Beer did a fundraiser. Larry's Cheesecake did 100 cheesecakes with proceeds coming to us. El Local Food Truck did a special taco and all the proceeds in one night came to us. Sizzle Food Truck donated, The Britt Pit Food Truck donated. We're so overwhelmed by the reaction by people. All these people we do business with on a regular basis, we loved them before, and now we're speechless.

RSW Living: And you still operated without a truck? How did you do it?

Dana: Everything takes so long when you're makeshift. It was a train wreck and everyone was so kind about it. They didn't care. They were here to support us. We cannot believe how people in the community just jumped in and did what they did to help us get back on our feet.

There was no way to pull off some of the bigger things, so we postponed some gigs, but they're back on the calendar for later this month. Otherwise, we didn't cease operations. We had to cancel i would say maybe six to seven events all told. Our first gig after the accident was the following Thursday at Momentum Brewing. We used a portable tent and portable grills. The support from community was insane! Momentum and Oil Well donated a portion of every beer sale.

RSW Living: Your Facebook mentions a Thank You Party. Do you have any details?

Dana: We are going to do "Let's Eat, stay tuned for a party to celebrate you." We don't have a date yet, because we don't have an open calendar yet. It will be sometime in April before we have an open date. We have to decide where it will be, because we're spread between Fort Myers, Ave Maria, Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Estero and the Maple Isle. Where in the middle do you go to service all your customers?

We'll do something special for the breweries. We're going to serve free food to the community that we're thanking. We'll do their favorites: the Cuban, pastrami, mojo chicken, and probably flan. Wherever we go, without those favorites, it would be a mutiny!

RSW Living: What are your goals for the future once things stabilize again?

Dana: We would like to have a brick and mortar. Now that we're three years into a food truck, we'd like to have a hole in the wall, somewhere casual, where people can be smoking cigars, playing dominos, picking up chicken soup ... it would be a family kitchen hang out where you can wear flip flops. We're keeping our eyes peeled for something along those lines. Obviously not now. We had talked about doing a second food tuck perhaps in 2018 and we just used all of our money to get a first food truck and start over. A second food truck isn't going to happen. We're kind of up in the air.

RSW Living: What should people know about the new truck?

Dana: The only thing we have left to do is let people know our new truck doesn't look like our old truck. The old truck is very signature and people know that's us. The new truck isn't wrapped yet and probably won't be for a little while, so please know that it's us in the plain red truck.

Another thing I'd like to say is that in this area, the way all of the food trucks work together, respect each other, refer each other and take care of each other, is just amazing. We have a really great camaraderie. If we're booked, we refer the others to make it easier for people. We all refer one another when there's an event that needs several trucks. We help put it together.

We love to work together, because we all stand and eat each other's food during breaks. That's the best part. It's a really nice way for food trucks to work together rather than against each other, and they're gourmet food trucks, not carnival food, so you know you're going to be eating good!