A Beatles’ song immediately comes to mind. “We all live in a Yellow Sub Machine, a yellow sub machine, a yellow sub machine….”
Marina and Murray Kereliuk don’t actually live in the Yellow Sub Machine, of course, but it’s been their transition business during the pandemic, taking up residence in a food truck on the Trans Canada Highway next to the Antique Barn after selling their Odika restaurant in downtown Chemainus.
“The pandemic kind of changed everything,” conceded Murray. “We love being in business and I love cooking. Food trucks are all takeout anyway.”
The Yellow Sub Machine, as the name implies, caters solely to making gourmet sub sandwiches that have already proven to be a huge hit with customers since the Kereliuks opened the food truck for business nearly two months ago in early March. Their location close to industrial businesses on Smiley Road gives them a solid customer base, but people from around town are slowly learning about their new operation after a decade of running Odika.
The Kereliuks have an adopted daughter who’s 22 and a son attending Chemainus Elementary School and really wanted to stay in Chemainus.
Murray is originally from Alberta and Marina from Africa. They met in Vancouver and were living in White Rock which Murray said was super expensive.
“We were looking for a way to get ahead,” he confided. “When I met her I recently lost a business.”
They ended up at Iris Lodge in remote Zeballos for five months before going to Gold River for six years and then coming to Chemainus to establish Odika, a word from Marina’s language related to food.
They built a reputation for serving fine food and some unique dishes, but it was hard in recent years to attract enough of a regular clientele to meet their needs. But it was definitely a go-to place for special occasions.
“You kind of see customers once or twice a year,” said Murray. “For us, the theatre was probably 80 per cent of our business. They’re out for an enjoyable evening. They want to have a nice dinner and go on to the show and the theatre. We did have some tourism as well.”
The restaurant used to be open for lunch and dinner, but then Murray suffered an illness that forced them to cut back to just dinner hours. And then the pandemic hit, not good for the restaurant business or the theatre, and the Kereliuks had to re-evaluate their future.
“We were just bleeding after that,” said Murray. “Fine dining doesn’t exactly translate to takeout food.
“That’s when we made the decision. We were already talking about it and we slammed the door on it.”
And when one door closed after selling the restaurant, another one opened with the food truck idea that someone had mentioned to them previously.
Kevin Smith from the Antique Barn called “and wanted to see if we wanted to go into that space,” noted Murray.
They jumped at the chance and purchased a former Booster Juice truck, converted it into the Yellow Sub Machine and started doing gourmet subs with side salads.
“People just want something fast out of a food truck,” Murray indicated. “Especially there, all those businesses on Smiley Road, they don’t want to wait a half an hour.”
Many have been ordering ahead and that reduces the wait time even more. Customers can literally pull into the parking lot and pull away with their food a short time later.
“We could still be creative and have fun with it,” said Murray of his specialty subs. “We’ve got no complaints. We’re fairly busy there.”
He feels it’s much better to be at a stationary location than moving around like some food trucks, especially with no events happening due to the pandemic.
“People have been really great,” said Murray. “A lot of our old customers have been coming in.
“It’s the evolution of necessity really, as all these businesses are. Everyone’s had to adapt. It’s not easy. I feel for all those small businesses. You wonder how many are really going to make it.”
The Yellow Sub Machine is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.