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The American Dream Has Dreads and a Van: Kyle and Ari

It’s a scorcher. The sun is high in the sky of early spring, and the heat from each truck’s generator blossoms into the crowded lot. It’s the most diverse crowd this sleepy little beach town has seen in a while. Spring Training is ramping up again bringing in swarms of Canadians and fans of visiting teams. Early spring-breakers have booked up every room in town, and the line at Buddha Blends Food Truck has been an unbroken 10-deep going on a few hours now. At the window is Ari, the bubbly dread-head, and she takes orders, serves, and exchanges pleasantries with each customer, answering their questions and leaving them with a smile. Behind her, her more introverted husband Kyle works diligently to keep up with the influx of requests. He is a one-man show in the back, slicing, pouring, blending, and cooking to the tune of Ari’s commands as she sends back each upcoming order.

BuddhaBlends is a 100% Vegan food truck that the couple started together years earlier. The two kicked around the idea early in college. They’ve been together since their senior year of high school, and while most couples were going to their first fraternity formal together, Kyle and Ari were hard at work researching, planning, and laying the groundwork for their new business. In 2016, they visited California where a food truck rally got their attention – they were set from there. The next year was spent purchasing the truck and sorting out all of the legalities of owning their own business, and as anybody who has ever started one of their own knows, the beginning is near-impossible to survive. Rules, regulations and a niche market in terms of taste laid before them a road less travelled, a task with limited prior experience on which to build. But from day one, they knew this way to be. Each came from supportive and entrepreneurial families. Each had a passion for the product. Each betting on themselves, and one another, something they have yet to relinquish along the way.

As a bit of a nutrition geek, I’ve experimented with plant-based eating (and most other fringe diets) in the past, but nothing I had back then was this good. Nachos, Mac and Cheese, Bowls, Smoothies; you want it, they have it, 100% Vegan, 100% satisfying. I’m told the ground beef in my nachos is actually made of walnuts, and the cheese on top is made of chickpeas. I’m a fan regardless. During my sojourn into veganism, the common problems I faced seemed to always be energy and variety; I felt like I wasn’t getting enough food or enough choices of what to eat. I express these concerns, and Kyle explains to me their side of the story.

He explains to me, as most Vegans I’ve talked to tend to explain to me, that they’ve seen certain documentaries outlining meat production’s influence on climate change, the treatment of animals through factory farming, and the benefits of plant-based eating on the human body. At this point in the conversation, I usually feel like the world’s biggest piece of human garbage. I usually feel attacked, like I’ve been, for the majority of my life, doing something so damaging to the planet and to myself that I ought to just sell it all and check into the state’s nearest max-security prison. With Kyle and Ari however, I don’t feel this way. I feel like a friend is telling me about something they’re passionate about; I feel like I’m having a “what can I do” conversation rather than a “what have you done?” In this, only my second conversation ever with the two, I feel what I remembered feeling the first time; compassion, empathy, a genuine interest in who I am, and what I stand for.

I ask them if the business has enhanced their relationship. They tell me it has but that it’s also presented its fair share of challenges. Things aren’t always magic for these two, they aren’t always a symbol of what real couples actually want to do in their relationships. They fight, they manage, they figure it out, just like everyone else. They don’t always have it right, but they have each other and that, to them, is worth the strain.

At the end of this month, the duo will be taking their show on the road. After a van purchase and a bold idea, they’ve decided to see the country together, doing the thing that almost everyone their age says they want to do but never actually have the stones to. They’ll pull behind them their food truck, stopping at music festivals, local events, parks, concerts, you name it. It will be, the adventure of a lifetime with nothing in tow besides the very essentials, including their dog Shakti, and two cats Tiny and Teddy.

Coming from where I’m from, folks are contained, mostly, to a couple-mile stretch of manicured lawns and golf carts. In this, it can be easy to think that the world is one way, and that only a few common archetypes really exist. With Kyle and Ari I find duality; business without the tie, transience without the chaos. They subscribe to no dogma, they just are, for themselves, and for one another. I end the interview by asking them, as I did Shelby and Josh, if they would want the same life for the kids they one day hope to have, and before I even finish the question the answer is a resounding yes. They don’t regret a thing. They have their fears and apprehensions, but they are ready for the journey ahead.

You can follow Ari and Kyle’s story on Instagram @buddhablendsft.


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