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‘I wasn’t going to give up on it’: Chicago native furthers food truck business on campus

Ella Slade
Chicago Treats food truck opened business on campus just in time for the Fall 2023 semester.

First-year students weren’t the only ones experiencing their first week on campus: food truck Chicago Treats, a minority-owned business, set up shop for the first time Tuesday between Kildee and Lagomarcino halls.

The food truck, owned by Chicago native Clevon “Cle” Reed, serves Chi-town favorites like the classic Chicago dog, Polish dog and Italian beef with classic au jus.

Reed’s passion for cooking and sharing food started when he was younger, watching his mom spend every Sunday preparing meals for his huge family.

“A lot of my uncles will call me weird, but I always wanted to be in the kitchen with my mom,” Reed said. “I just loved seeing my mom’s passion for seeing if everybody was okay and food being that mode, and I really wanted to get into that.”

With his love for both family and food, Reed, who previously did long-haul trucking, said the constant travel wasn’t a good fit for his family life after the birth of his first daughter.

“I ended up just coming home, cold turkey,” Reed said. “I just quit, and we used our savings. I really emptied it out to get [Chicago Treats] going.”

In 2019, Reed got his vending license, and the food truck was up and running by August of the same year. However, COVID-19 put Chicago Treats temporarily out of commission shortly thereafter.

“We had spent everything on the business. I wasn’t going to give up on it,” Reed said.

Reed’s wife was attending Iowa State at the time, and his family was living in university housing until outstanding U-Bill debts forced them out.

Reed used the last of his savings to purchase a motorhome and moved his family to a local campground.

“We didn’t know the first thing about camping. We just knew that that was what we needed,” Reed said.

Reed still made efforts to get the business off the ground, but the surrounding circumstances made it difficult to see any profit.

“That winter of 2020 was pretty tough,” Reed said. “We tried to get the food truck up and going a couple of times during the winter, but we just couldn’t swing it.”

Steven Perlowski, the owner of Whatcha Smokin’ BBQ + Brew, offered Reed his first professional cooking job later that year.

“He helped me out with a job because I had the privilege of serving him at the food truck, and he saw the position I was in,” Reed said.

Perlowski was encouraging him to start Chicago Treats business up again the following summer, Reed said.

“I gave up security again and went back for it, and we’ve been really going ever since,” Reed said.

Reed’s spirituality is important to both him and his business, and he has found community within the Body of Christ Church in Ames. In 2021, the church gave Chicago Treats the opportunity to cater a Father’s Day lunch.

“From there, my walk with Christ has been completely changed,” Reed said. “My whole life has been completely changed, and the longevity of the business has been completely changed.”

Reed was the sole member of his team before meeting two men at his church who went on to become Chicago Treats employees.

In the future, Reed hopes to introduce specials, including breakfast items, to the Chicago Treats menu.

“All I know is that I need to serve people, and this is how I plan on doing it,” Reed said. “If I could, I would do this for free. I love meeting new people. I love sharing my testimony.”

To learn more about Chicago Treats, find them on Instagram and Facebook.

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  • S

    Sherry | Aug 26, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    What an inspiring story.

  • C

    Cathy | Aug 23, 2023 at 5:28 pm

    Made me cry.

  • M

    Michael | Aug 23, 2023 at 3:45 pm

    I know this group of people. Amazing team!! Great photo. The story is Clevon Reeds story and it would be so cool to have a face to go with the name.

  • G

    Ginger | Aug 23, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    What a beautiful inspiring story!