When Elena Hudson’s new food truck — The Hud — rolled into Douglasville from the shop in Miami where it was custom built, her grandfather, Buford, couldn’t wait to take a look.
Elena said it was an emotional moment for her, and for the man she calls Pawpaw, who started Hudson’s Hickory House nearly 50 years ago in December of 1971.
“I’ve never seen that man cry in my life,” Elena said. “I told him, too, ‘This is everything you’ve kind of created and built for me to build on.’ So, it’s kind of exciting. I don’t know why I was chosen for this life sometime, and then I get to do things like this and it helps make sense.”
Elena said she got the idea for a food truck a few years back while still a student at the University of West Georgia. She graduated with honors last year with degrees in marketing and business management and set out to expand the Hudson’s brand.
While her food truck is an extension of the family business, Elena said The Hud is a separate entity from Hudson’s Hickory House. Elena is the sole proprietor of The Hud.
Elena describes herself as a “proud feminist,” and she helped design the exterior of the truck with plenty of feminist flair.
“Girl power all the way,” she said.
In addition to the pink paint on the exterior, the words “Female Owned” are displayed in large letters prominently at the front of the truck. And she included lace on the truck to honor the woman she calls her “idol,” the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
She points out that her grandfather and father, Scot Hudson, “both great men,” have run Hudson’s Hickory House over the past five decades. But she said it’s important that people know her grandmother Ann and her mom, Teresa, were there running the business with them.
Elena said she spoke to students at Brighten Academy a few years ago. One of the cards she received after the visit was from a female student who told her that she helped her realize she could be a business owner. She still has the card in her office and said the girl’s words inspire her.
“I really want to capitalize on that,” Elena said. “That women can run businesses, too.”
LITTLE GIRL IN RUSSIA
Elena said she also thinks a lot about another little girl she met in Russia about three years ago.
Scot and Teresa Hudson adopted Elena from an orphanage in Volgograd, Russia, in 1998. Elena was 18 months old when she was adopted. She calls the area where she was born “insanely poor,” saying her birth mother — who she’s never met — was a teacher making the equivalent of about $20 a month.
About three years ago, she visited the orphanage in Volgograd and met a girl who was about her age when she was adopted. A picture was taken of Elena holding the little girl and she has kept the photo on her phone ever since.
“I think about her all the time,” Elena said. … “It was just like another world. So, to come to this life, I mean I’ve just been blessed. My parents put me through private school. There’s so many things I got to do … like Disney World as a kid. I grew up like that and went over there and I was just like, ‘Wow, this is everything my parents gave me.’ ”
She said she had already been working at the family restaurant. But after the trip to Russia, she focused on doing more for her parents.
TASTE OF HOME
Elena is currently the chief operating officer at Hudson’s Hickory House. She started promoting the restaurant on social media while she was still in middle school.
In the past few years she’s started selling items like Hudson’s shirts and barbecue sauce through the restaurant’s social media platforms and has shipped items to many Douglasville natives in places as far away as South Korea and Hawaii looking for a little taste of home.
She has also used social media to promote specials at the restaurant like pork grilled-cheese minis and barbecue egg rolls.
She said the last time the restaurant had egg rolls, she and a friend spent two days making over 500.
“They were still sold out by like 2 o’clock and we don’t even open until 10 a.m,” she said. “I was just like freaking mind blown. I’m like, ‘How are all of these egg rolls gone?’ ”
The egg rolls are the type of item she said will be sold in future on the The Hud food truck.
She had a soft opening for The Hud at the family farm earlier this month and served up delicacies from banana pudding cupcakes to loaded pork rind nachos and quesadillas.
Elena said the restaurant will be the base of operations, with all the meat served on the food truck still smoked there.
“We’ve essentially just added a creative twist to everything,” she said.
She said she plans to have a rotating menu on the food truck which will allow her to be more creative. She said “there are so many options I want to offer” and that it wouldn’t be feasible to have a 20-item menu.
LAUNCHING THE BUSINESS
She said it was last August when she really kicked things into gear, teaching herself everything there was to know about running a food truck. She had help from Todd Anduze at the UGA Small Business Development Center. She found out about Anduze through the Douglas County Chamber where she is very active.
Last last year, she registered the truck’s name with the Georgia Secretary of State, started working on securing a loan and ultimately hired Build A Food Truck Miami to build her customized truck, a converted Frito Lay truck she calls “a tank.” Her dad went with her on the trips to Miami as The Hud was being developed and eventually completed.
She said she’s working on getting a health permit to operate in Douglas County. Once the permit is approved, she said her friend and Douglasville Planning Manager April McKown told her The Hud will be Douglasville’s first official food truck.
Permits, she notes, are expensive and a different permit is needed in each county where the food truck plans to operate. She said she hopes to also get a permit in Cobb County early on, with a goal of setting up at places like craft breweries.
She said she plans to set up some Sundays in the Hudson’s Hickory House parking lot when the restaurant is closed and that she’ll pop up at other local spots like the Cultural Arts Center where she’ll be on May 15 for the Taste of Douglasville.
Elena said The Hud will operate anywhere from two to four days a week depending on the season.
She already has 12 gigs lined up in May, and she said she has gotten more inquiries than she can count to do weddings. She added that graduations are among many other events that have become hot spots for food trucks.
For more information about The Hud, contact Elena Hudson at email@example.com, and follow The Hud on Facebook and Instagram @TheHudFoodTruck.