Ron Long climbed into the van parked at the rear of Fagundes Meats and Catering, his voice and imagination filling the empty cab.
With his hands, he drew a refrigerator packed with meat … then a fresh vegetable stand … and then shelves stocked with linens, seasoning, sauces and knives.
He walked over to where the register will be and positioned his hands over make-believe keys, and then he envisioned himself helping a line of customers filling the sidewalk.
Yes, the sidewalk.
Not the counter.
In its latest business venture, Fagundes is preparing to employ an old-school sales strategy: They will go door to door, reaching into Manteca’s neighborhoods with a home delivery service.
The venture will begin within a month, owner Frank Teixeira estimated, and will service only Manteca.
“If they’re not going to come to us,” Teixeira said, “we’ll go to them.”
Employee Ron Long will drive the van, going door to door with meat specials, seasoning and other products. He said Fagundes will also sell vegetables, linens and knives with the hope that customers could cook full meals with the items they purchase.
Customers can flag down Long if they see him on the road or place an order by calling 209.239.4184.
Fagundes’ popular tri-tip sandwich, Portuguese beans or variety of salads will be available on a pre-order basis, Teixeira said, citing food safety.
“People don’t have a lot of time on their hands, so this will eliminate them having to drive to us,” Teixeira said. “We’ll go right to them. Hopefully, we can reach new customers, too. There are some that don’t know where we’re at.”
Long crafted the idea and pitched it to Teixeira. For his part, Teixeira – a man that rarely says no – didn’t need much convincing.
“I’ll try anything once,” he said, crediting Long for the vision. “There is a (risk), sure, but I think we can do it. We did it with a (smaller) van last year and it seemed to work.”
Long was inspired by the artistry and creativity of Fagundes’ staff.
For the past year, he’s watched the butchers dazzle with meat hooks and knives, turning out quality cuts of meat. He’s also noticed the sense of community that exists around the meat market’s front-porch grill.
Customers – some complete strangers – are drawn to the cooking meats and vegetables, as if hypnotized by the smoke. Soon, conversation turns from food to family as friendships are born.
While Fagundes enjoys a clientele willing to drive great lengths for its meats and other products, Long saw another opportunity.
Why not share that culinary creativity with a community starving for options? Why not cement Fagundes’ stature as the neighborhood meat market and deli by giving itself back to the neighborhoods?
So they purchased a van and began the legwork.
The van has been dressed with the customary logo and will soon be equipped with appliances, stands and shelving, completing its transformation into a mobile kitchen.
“It’s time to put that creativity back into community … back into the food we eat,” Long said. “Let’s get something that looks and tastes great. Let’s put some color on the plate.”