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Make Mine a Mocha: Graffiti Art Adorns Lunch Wagon

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
June 20, 2007

When Ramon Valdez bought his own lunch truck to replace the concession van “It’s a Wrap” that had been a mainstay on College Road for many years, he wanted patrons to know that wasn’t the only thing that had changed.

So, he and his wife, Kristin, asked UNH art professors if they knew anyone who could create a graffiti mural for them. An artist who goes by S.H. surfaced. Working from a picture he took of Ramon, he came up with a design that, if it were on a building somewhere, would likely land him in trouble.

“We specifically asked if they knew someone who could do graffiti art,” Kristin Valdez says. “The artist worked without a stencil or an outline or anything. I’m still floored every time I look at it.”

The mural took just four hours, start to finish. It’s signed “artbysh@yahoo.com.” The name of the business is spray painted on the side of the truck along with a picture of Valdez wearing a UNH T-shirt. There’s also a chocolate chip cookie—one of Valdez’s signature items--and a banner ribbon that reads “home of the mocha java.”

Ramon Valdez is from New York where, growing up, graffiti was a way of life. He describes himself as one of the “bad boys” who did tagging as a kid (but never on buildings). Then, as he got older, he found many store owners who decorated their property with graffiti art.

“You’d see it all over up around 123rd Street,” Valdez says. “I thought it would be fun to have someone do it for me.”

Kristin Valdez says it reminds him of home.

“Plus it’s the age we grew up in,” she says.

The couple met while working in the produce department at a local Market Basket grocery store. He had always wanted to own “some type of kitchen.” After working at “It’s a Wrap” for a few years, the opportunity to take over the business led to buying a new truck last year.

Kristin Valdez left her career as a hair stylist in March to work alongside her husband. The couple has three children, ages 14, 12 and 5. The Monday through Friday schedule gives them weekends off with the family.

Ramon’s still sells many of the items offered by “It’s a Wrap”—burgers and dogs and, of course, wrap sandwiches. But Valdez has added his own touch by serving salads and subs and by increasing the choices for vegetarians.

He’s also introduced daily specials. On Wednesdays, it’s some variation of Spanish food.

“Last week it was black beans, rice and fried cheese,” Valdez says. “And our prices are reasonable. You can eat a chicken patty with French fries and a soda for under $5.”

Adds Kristen Valdez, “We have college student prices. All of our meals are under $6.”

The biggest challenge, she says, is working together in such a small space. One step inside—that’s really all you can take without being in the way—confirms that description. The lunch truck is equipped with a six-burner stove, a grill, two deep fryers, a couple of steamers, a double sink, refrigerator and freezer. Supplies line the metal shelves.

Ramon’s is located between Horton Hall and the Paul Creative Arts Center on College Road. For the summer, Ramon’s is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. During the school year, they start at 7 a.m. and stay open until 3:30 p.m. The couple also caters to the UNH horse shows in April, June, August and October.

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