Vendors of vittles: Local entrepreneurs serve up festival fare throughout region

WORTHINGTON -- From the sunroom window of their Lake Avenue home, Paul Koob and Sue Flesner can see the spot where their business is situated for the duration of the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival. Just a short com...

Sue Flesner and Paul Koob stand in front of their P.S. Indian Style Taco trailer parked on Sailboard Beach in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- From the sunroom window of their Lake Avenue home, Paul Koob and Sue Flesner can see the spot where their business is situated for the duration of the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival. Just a short commute along the lakeshore, and they will be hard at work today, serving up fare from their P.S. Indian Style Taco trailer.

Paul and Sue are in their third season as food vendors, but the Indian taco stand "has been at every Regatta and the last 20 Turkey Days," noted Sue.

The business, then known as Oompah Tacos, was originated in southern Minnesota by Paul's uncle, Tom Wisdorf, and another uncle operates an Indian taco concession out of Cheyenne, Wyo. When Wisdorf decided to retire and none of his children indicated an interest in taking over the enterprise, Paul and Sue stepped up to the (paper) plate.

"We had helped him out and told him we were interested," Paul said.

"It's not something everyone wants to do," added Sue.


After mulling over possible names for their new enterprise, the couple decided on their initials, which also signify a postscript at the end of a letter. Initially, running the business was a bit stressful on their relationship, especially since they were both working full-time, but with a couple of seasons now under their belts, they've learned how to cope with seven-day work weeks.

"When we get to a spot, we know what we have to do," Sue said.

Sue's son, Eric Marten, is the third member of the trailer workforce, and for the bigger events they hire additional help.

Over the course of the summer months and into the fall, Paul and Sue will spend their weekends at 11 festivals or fairs in the Upper Midwest. That's in addition to their day jobs: Sue is the manager of the Old Home Thrift Store in Worthington; while Paul is employed at AGCO in Jackson, although he's currently on voluntary layoff. That time off is appreciated during the high festival season.

"I take care of the operations -- cleaning, inventory, ordering -- and she takes care of the books," explained Paul, who also assumes responsibility for closing up the trailer and hauling it home from each event while Sue heads out early to get some shut-eye.

Between events, the trailer is stored at the rural home of Sue's daughter and son-in-law, Holly and Jason Sieve. On a recent day, Paul spent four hours out there, cleaning up from the last event and getting ready for the Regatta.

"There's a lot more to it than people think -- licenses, insurance, a lot of expense, the ordering, the prepping," detailed Sue.

And that's all before they can ever begin slinging tacos for the hungry masses. Paul and Sue are proud of the quality products they turn out in the relatively small space of the trailer. Their signature item is a taco made on a piece of fried bread. Also popular is the elephant ear -- a piece of fried bread coated in cinnamon sugar and frosting. The menu also includes taco salads and super nachos.


"We don't have a million different varieties," on the menu, said Sue. "We want to be able to keep it fresh and be able to use it."

"Everything we have is made right on site," Paul explained. "Even the cheese we get in big blocks, and it's shredded right on site. Everything is as fresh as it can be."

People seem to enjoy what P.S. Indian Tacos has to offer, and Paul and Sue enjoy traveling around to the different communities.

"Tom was in it for 17 years, and pretty much everywhere we go, we have a following. He grew a pretty good customer base," Paul said.

One of the most profitable events is an annual craft show in Aberdeen, S.D. The longest event -- six days -- is the Brown County Fair, also in Aberdeen. The smallest festival is probably Summerfest in Sacred Heart -- a Minnesota community of about 500 population.

"We're the only vendor they allow in -- just us and the local auxiliary," explained Sue. "It's one night, and it's just a solid line for four or five hours."

"They'll wait 45 minutes in line for one of these tacos," Paul said, shaking his head in disbelief.

"They only get them once a year, so they're willing to wait," Sue added. "We didn't even know where Sacred Heart was until we got that event."


Other noteworthy festivals on the P.S. Indian Taco schedule include Box Elder Bug Days in Minneota, Waterama in Glenwood and Coming Home Days in Cottonwood.

When they're on the road, Paul and Sue generally bunk in a motel, so they're especially appreciative of the hometown events that allow them to put their heads on their own pillows. Running a food stand, they admit, can be exhausting.

"The worst part for me is the physical part," Sue explained. "My shoulders are sore after a long day of it. ... But you take a hot shower, a couple of Tylenol, and you're ready for the next day."

"For me, it's the getting home after an event, the drive home," said Paul about the downside of the business. "There are events when I don't get home until after midnight, 1 a.m., and that's after working a weekend of 12-hour days. One time I blew a tire out in the middle of nowhere and didn't get home until 5 in the morning and then I had to go to work."

Since their venues are predominantly outdoors, weather can also be a source of frustration.

"There's nobody more in tuned with the forecast than we are on the weekends," said Paul with a laugh. "But it's part of the job; it's out of our control."

The long days and occasional frustrations are worth it, Paul and Sue said, because of the people they meet -- customers and fellow vendors.

"There are the regular vendors that you run into every year, and you get to be close friends," explained Paul. "We even exchange food, and if somebody runs out of something, you try to help each other out."


"You share resources when you have to," Sue agreed. "It's a pretty common practice."

This year, in addition to hauling the taco trailer to various events, Paul and Sue invested in a new fryer and have set up shop as Grandma Sue's Funnel Cakes on Sunday nights at the Nobles County Speedway. The new endeavor has added even more hours to their already long work week, but the new product has been well received, and so far it's been worth the extra time and effort.

On this Regatta weekend, Paul and Sue look forward to the short trek down Sailboard Beach, fraternizing with their fellow vendors and serving up fresh Indian-style tacos to hungry windsurfers.

"It's so different from our ordinary jobs," said Sue about the traveling taco stand. "And we both love working with people."

What To Read Next
Get Local