Everyone has a different path to a food truck. For Josh and Janese Nelsen, it was a desire to find a proven franchise that filled a void in Baldwin County. For them it just so happened to be a food …
Everyone has a different path to a food truck. For Josh and Janese Nelsen, it was a desire to find a proven franchise that filled a void in Baldwin County. For them it just so happened to be a food truck.
The Nelsen family moved to Baldwin County from Iowa in 2013 due to a work transfer for Janese. Over the years the family grew to love the area so much she took a position with a local company to stay permanently.
"We had always looked at franchises and thought about owning our own business or doing something. We flipped a house and always did extra things because I just can't stop working. I just must be going all the time," Janese said while Josh shook his head to agree.
"It's true," Josh said laughing. "Which in turn makes me go 24/7 just to keep up."
The couple first attempted to get a Midwest cookie franchise they loved but it was not an option due to the distance. The company could not ship the cookie dough to Alabama. They didn't want to reinvent the wheel, so they were determined to find a proven franchise. It turned out the company for them just had not been started yet.
Bondi Bowls was founded by a young woman in Oklahoma named Bailey Wilson. After college in Oklahoma, Wilson moved to the Bondi Beach area in Sydney, Australia, where she built a life and fell in love with the area. She returned to Edmond, Oklahoma, after her father was diagnosed with cancer and just before international travel was shut down due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. She missed the Australian lifestyle and cuisine and opened Bondi Bowls' first truck in June 2020.
The brand has grown leaps and bounds. In two years, they have grown to 17 food trucks and two storefronts across seven states and are still growing.
When the Nelsens found Bondi Bowls Josh took a trip to Oklahoma to spend time on the truck with Wilson and learn the ins and outs. By June 2021, the Nelsens were franchise owners and Josh quit his job. Unfortunately, due to delays, the custom food truck did not arrive until September 2021.
"Our first event was Sept. 17, 2021. We have been going ever since," Josh Nelsen said.
Bondi Bowls serves acai and pitaya bowls. Acai berry is a reddish-purple fruit that comes from the acai palm tree and is native to Central and South America. Pitaya is also known as dragon fruit. Both are considered superfoods that are loaded with antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. The acai or pitaya are blended with strawberries, banana and apple juice to create a smooth creamy texture. The acai and pitaya are topped with fresh cut fruit, granola and honey. Customers can create their own combination or choose from the menu board.
"The thing that sets Bondi Bowls apart is that our granola, peanut butter and almond butter are homemade. We do not add unrefined sugar to anything," Janese Nelsen said. "Our granola is to die for. We are also vegan, dairy free, gluten-free and sugar free. We are a great alternative for people with allergies."
When the Nelsens began the Bondi Bowls Gulf Coast venture the plan was for Josh to focus full-time on the food truck while Janese continued her real estate business. The business grew slowly at first but snowballed quickly. Soon Janese pitched the idea to purchase a second truck over the winter in preparation for a busy summer season. The second truck arrived in December 2021 but it didn't sit until summer.
"It starts one card at a time. One little event at a time," Janese said. "We could see the need coming at us and we thought, how are we going to be able to reach all these people with one truck?"
Janese saw that Josh was overloaded so she joined the team full-time and continues to work her real estate business. The couple's 16-year-old son, Brady Nelsen, and eight part-time employees round out the crew for large events.
The two Bondi Bowls Gulf Coast trucks operate all over the Gulf Coast from Mobile to Ono Island. Janese manages the booking and said she has seen a significant increase in requests from Mobile and Pensacola. Unfortunately, due to fuel prices they have not operated much in Pensacola but that will change soon. They also have their first event booked in Mississippi.
"Sometimes when people contact me to schedule the truck, they don't know what we do. I tell them we are an option for those that can't have some of the food on other trucks," Janese said. "Now more than ever you have food allergies and people eating differently. We are an option for people needing or wanting gluten-free, dairy free, nut free and sugar free."
In May the Summerdale School booked the Bondi Bowls truck and ice cream truck for the last day of school. Janese was worried they wouldn't get much business.
"When the lady with the school came to us to pay at the end, we counted our vouchers and we had 51. She was amazed because she thought the ice cream truck would get the most. You would expect children to choose ice cream. They weren't even getting our shaved ice. They were getting bowls and then coming back with their own money to get more. It was a good feeling," Janese said.
Over the past year, the customer base has grown and gathered a loyal following. Josh said they have several customers that hunt them down each week to get their Bondi Bowl fix. They have also become a popular booking for youth sporting events. During a recent soccer tournament at the Foley Sports Complex the truck had a line of at least 20 all day.
The demand is so abundant that Janese is already planning for truck number three and has the colors chosen for the next three trucks. The Nelsen's have also committed to a food truck park in the Gulf Breeze area that is currently under construction. When the time comes, one truck will stay in Gulf Breeze, leaving one truck for the Gulf Coast bookings.
They also get asked if they have a store front or when they plan to open one. The Nelsens agree that all options are open, but Janese is firm that it will only happen under the right circumstances and for her that means a space with a drive through window.
"I have always said failure is not an option. It is scary and I don't like to put myself out there but if it is success or failure I can't stop," Janese said.
For more information on Bondi Bowls Gulf Coast, visit bondibowls.com/Alabama or Bondi Bowls Gulf Coast Facebook page.