Vargas family ready to feed communityBy Sue Tiffin
Published May 1, 2018
Adrian and Wendy Vargas have the space. They have the traffic. They have the motivation. And perhaps most importantly, they have the support of their friends and family.
So less than half a year after the former Sears Haliburton owners were blindsided by a call telling them the retail chain was closing all operations, including their own, the Vargas family is back in business.
In just a few weeks, they plan to open Mega Munch Breakfast and Lunch on the lot of the former Sears building on Hwy. 118.
They’ve had the idea of a food truck for quite some time, but opening it alongside their busy Sears business would have been impossible. Now after spending the winter wrapping their heads around unexpected life changes, they’ve been putting plans in place to create a food truck like no other.
The brand new, bright yellow, 20-foot long trailer arrived last weekend, and the Vargas family is planning on being open for business in the high traffic zone on the highway between Haliburton village and Eagle Lake mid-May.
“The truck is going to be yellow, and I mean bright yellow,” said Adrian. “You’re going to see it from Carnarvon.”
Mega Munch Breakfast and Lunch will open at 7 a.m. for breakfast, offering breakfast sandwiches and breakfast bowls full of home fries, eggs, country sausage gravy and Wendy’s homemade cheese sauce that she has perfected. The menu also offers fresh-cut fries, homemade burgers, homemade Mars bars, churros and empanadas that Adrian said have already piqued the interest of any who have been offered the chance to taste test the Vargas recipe.
Adrian grew up in a household with an Argentinian dad, a Colombian mom, and a grandmother from Spain. Empanadas – a sort of fried turnover stuffed with ground beef, hard boiled egg, and spices – were common in his childhood.
“Fortunately I got to grow up on it,” said Adrian. “I’m just lucky to have that experience. It’s nice to be able to offer that kind of experience, like what I experienced as a kid.”
The idea is garnering enthusiasm from friends, including Silvio and Anna Mannarino of La Luna Del Nordo Ristorante, who Adrian said have been genuine friends during his family’s time of hardship.
“Wendy took my dad’s recipe and altered it a bit,” he said. “She calls them her empanadas, and I’m good with that. I’ve eaten a lot of empanadas over the years. My mom makes them, my dad makes them. These are amazing. Silvio and Anna said they’re probably the best empanadas they had. They said, ‘whatever you did, do not change a thing.’ Which was awesome.”
Adrian said the Mannarinos were extremely helpful in setting the Vargases up with suppliers and giving them the support they needed to get into the food business. Though operating an eatery brings a change of pace and a lot of prep work that is daunting, Adrian said their husband-wife team is ready.
“We worked together when we first met, we worked together here, at Sears,” he said. “We complement each other very well. Things I don’t do well...she does everything well.”
The couple’s teenage boys, Alex and Matthew, are ready, too. The business will be 100 per cent family-operated, and the logo reflects this – with a bite out of the logo for each member of the Vargas family.
“The four of us did the food handling course this week,” said Adrian. “It was amazing how enthusiastic my boys were, asking good questions. Wendy and I looked at each other afterwards and said, ‘who are these boys?’ Invasion of the body snatchers? They’re obviously enthusiastic.”
The family hopes to offer what Adrian called a fresh, alternative meal at a low cost.
“We’re not about making millions,” he said. “We want to work hard and we want people to enjoy it.”
He and Wendy also worked hard at Sears Haliburton, before he said the closure caused them to “hit bottom.”
“We were not ready to give up Sears,” he said. “We were shocked. We knew it was coming, but we always got told it was safe, because we were the busiest store in Ontario for the last two years, for the hometown stores. Better than Huntsville, better than Bancroft, better than everybody like that. The highest by far, not even by a little bit, by far. We assumed, we’re going to be good.”
Then the call came in soon before the liquidation sales began.
“We had Sears talk to us twice during this whole liquidation thing,” he said. “One was to tell us we were closing – it was a scripted call for everybody and you couldn’t even ask questions. They wouldn’t let you do it. The call ended and then you were on your own.”
It was a huge devastation for the family, who owned the property and lived above the store they ran for 4.5 years, and the closure largely depleted their savings. Despite many challenging days, Adrian said his 13-year-old son reminded his parents to be optimistic.
“He said, ‘you guys have to remember, you’re still here. You did it,’” said Adrian. “It’s humbling hearing that from a kid.”
The risk of opening another business is “terrifying,” to Adrian, but he is also hopeful for the future and has much backing from his family – including his parents – his friends, and the community, which he remains committed to.
“[I’m] feeling optimistic, and I also don’t know how to say it,” he said, becoming teary. “It’s one of those things. We still have that behind us, but it’s behind us. I can’t dwell on the past. What it comes out to is that this has to work. We have to make this work. We’re going to do everything we possibly can.”
Mega Munch Breakfast and Lunch plans to open mid-May at 13533 Highway 118 in Haliburton. It offers accessible indoor/outdoor seating. Follow Mega Munch Breakfast and Lunch on Facebook for updates.