Updated: Jan 17, 2018
By popular demand, we want to give a peek behind the evolution of our buttery rice, tangy garlic and lemon sauces and the first struggling days of Coco Shrimp. Starting your own business isn’t all rainbows and cupcakes. Sometimes you just need to keep pushing forward and laugh in the face of Murphy and his stupid law.
My name is Jordan Barrus, co-owner of Coco Shrimp. For those who don’t know my story, I joined forces with my brother-in-law, Isaac Hadley, after Coco Shrimp had been open and operating for a few months. We had just moved back to the mainland from Hawaii when Isaac first told me his idea to open a shrimp food truck in Texas. I immediately told him it was a horrible idea. I had just gotten a fancy, grown up corporate job in Southern California and tried talking Isaac into giving up his dreams and settling for a "real job" too. I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong.
Since I joined the business about six months after it started, I was able to watch from an outsiders perspective as Isaac figured things out while building the truck. I would talk to him on the phone a couple of times a week and our conversations typically went like this:
Me: “Hey man, how’s the food truck coming?”
Isaac: “Fine... I’m almost out of money, the truck’s engine blew up (literally) and the guy I hired to paint the truck took off with $2000.”
I have to hand it to Isaac. I would’ve given up. Almost anyone would have.
The day before the food truck was scheduled to open at the Fort Worth Food Park, I spoke to Isaac again:
Me: “Hey man, are you excited to open tomorrow?”
Isaac: “Ya! I just ran out of money when I ordered this big shipment of raw shrimp so if this doesn’t work out tomorrow and this shrimp goes bad, that’s it for Coco Shrimp. We’re done. We’re going to start trying out some different recipe idea’s I have tonight and figure out how to cook these things on the truck.”
Me: “I’m sorry…you haven’t tried cooking your shrimp on the truck yet and you guys open tomorrow?”
Isaac: “Jordan...I’ll figure it out”
That’s Isaac. Overly positive in the kind of situations that would make normal people wet their pants.
So Isaac gathered some garlic, lemons, butter, some secret ingredients and whatever he could find in the seasoning section of the store and started making his own unique version of the Hawaiian Style Seafood we all grew to love while living in Hawaii.
Opening day came and I was excited to hear how everything went:
Me: “Well? How’d it go? Are you filing for bankruptcy yet?”
Isaac: “It didn’t go so well…we got there early to set up and everything seemed fine. Our friends and family drove in from hours away to support our grand opening. No pressure right? Before we opened we had a line down the block! Then our propane line broke... We couldn’t start our fryer and we had to turn everyone away and go home. Luckily I was able to keep most of the shrimp frozen so I’m going to try and fix it and try again tomorrow.”
It was like something out of a bad movie. Without money to buy supplies and the shrimp losing it’s shelf life, Coco Shrimp quickly seemed to turn into Apollo 13, spiraling out of control with only scraps and pieces to work with in order to fix the broken gas pipe. He worked all night and somehow managed to fix the pipe in time to open for the next day.
I waited in anticipation throughout the next day. I tried calling Isaac a few times to see if he had finally thrown in the towel and set fire to the truck or something but he never answered. Finally, I got his call:
Me: “Well? How’d it go??”
Isaac: “Dude! It was awesome! My fix worked! Since my friends and family weren’t there anymore I thought it was going to be slow but the Food Park was PACKED! I was slammed all day! I had no idea if people were liking our food, so every chance I got, I stepped out and eavesdrop on people’s conversations about the food. I heard people saying they couldn’t taste the lemon, so I started throwing full lemon wedges in with the shrimp as they cooked. I heard people saying it was too garlicky, too salty, not enough rice...etc. So I just tweaked what I was doing until I didn’t hear anyone complaining anymore.”
And that’s how it went. Over the next few months, Isaac perfected his recipes to the flavors we all know and love today.
Isaac’s positivity, willingness to learn, great leaps of faith, his crazy work ethic (and a bit of dumb luck) are what pulled me away from a secure corporate job, to now slingin’ shrimp in a parking lot.
I joined Coco Shrimp as co-owner/KPS Specialist. KPS stands for Keepin’ People Stoked…it’s what we call Customer Service (I stole that from Stance Socks). Our goal is to expand the business and shred this Coco Shrimp wave as far as it’ll take us.
Something I’ve learned over the past two years that we have been open, is to never underestimate the amazing people of Fort Worth and their willingness to support local small businesses. We still talk to and ask our customers their opinion about our food every chance we get. We take negative reviews and complaints very seriously. That’s how this business was built and that’s how we intend to keep it. Keepin’ People Stoked is what we do.
If you have any questions or subjects you want us to write about, feel free to send us a message at email@example.com.