It’s a beautiful Friday in September and the Golden Sun food truck is parked on the sidewalk next to Bemidji Downtown Meats. Four people are already standing in line for food at 11:30 AM. One man is in his scrubs and has a number of to-go orders he’s bringing back to his colleagues. Two women in jeans wait for their lunch order, one who ordered beef egg rolls, one who opted for the veggie egg rolls. Inside the trailer, Renzo Alia and Dennice Permites are hard at work cooking each meal fresh to order. The couple opened Golden Sun in the spring of 2018, just in time to get in front of northern Minnesota’s hungry tourists.
Golden Sun is a one of a kind food truck that is catching many people’s attention around Bemidji and surrounding communities. They specialize in Filipino egg rolls, and a menu that rotates a variety of Filipino dishes depending on the day. “Filipino Comfort Food” is what they use to describe their offerings on the Golden Sun website. Dennice is the primary cook, and the recipes are all dishes that she watched her mother cook while growing up in the Philippines. Her family also owns a food business in her home country.
“I call her a lot to ask about recipes and cooking advice,” said Dennice.
Renzo moved to Bemidji from the Philippines in 2007 with his mom. In 2016, Dennice decided to make to move to be closer to Renzo and to join him in the business venture.
“I always knew I wanted to open a business, I just didn’t know what kind,” said Renzo. He received his business degree from Northwest Technical College, and started working for Affinity Plus. Dennice was working as a Medical Technician at Sanford Health. Together, they decided to take the plunge and start taking the steps to opening their own business. After being turned down by a number of banks, they sought help from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Deb McGregor, a business consultant with the SBDC directed them to the LaunchPad i
n Bemidji to find advice and resources for opening a business. She also introduced them to Grant Oppegaard, another SBDC consultant.
Together, they were able to come up with a viable business plan, and decided to come to the Northwest Minnesota Foundation to apply for a loan through the Entrepreneur Development Program. By winter of 2017, they were able to purchase a custom built trailer that would be used as their food truck. They spent a week traveling to Georgia to pick it up. They set-up for the first time in the spring of 2018, and since have been traveling to a number of towns outside of Bemidji and setting up for a number of festivals and events throughout the summer.
When you walk up to the window of the Golden Sun food truck, you can be sure that you’re ordering fresh food; Dennice wakes up each morning to cook the food fresh that will be served that day. It takes her at least three hours to cook enough food for them to serve from 11:00 AM-2:00 PM on a typical day. They often sell out of food before 2:00 PM. Their ingredients include local meats from Bemidji, and authentic Filipino seasonings and egg roll wrappers that they purchase from an oriental food store in Minneapolis. They make the trip to Minneapolis 2-3 times a month to keep enough supplies on hand.
“It’s a lot of traveling, but we want to serve these dishes the way they are meant to be enjoyed, which means using the most authentic Filipino ingredients that we can find,” said Dennice.
Golden Sun has a website and a Facebook page, but they said most of their business has come from word of mouth. They see a number of regulars, and said many of them are military veterans who have enjoyed Filipino cuisine while on deployment. They rotate menu items based on their inventory and to offer people a chance to try different dishes.
When asked what’s next for this thrivi
ng business, Renzo and Dennice said their dream would be to open an oriental food store of their own in Bemidji. They also hope to do more catering. Dennice is even working on convincing her mom to move to Bemidji from the Philippines to help expand the business.
Renzo said the best advice he could give someone thinking about opening their own business in northwest Minnesota is to just take the plunge.
“Keep your head up, don’t get discouraged when things don’t go as planned. And don’t hesitate to ask for help,” said Renzo.