The COVID-19 pandemic put Bill and Sandi Pollnow out of business and ultimately led them to an entirely new business.
The couple operated their own commercial floor cleaning business for 20 years. After the shutdown in March 2020, they lost the contract that had supported their company. They had been servicing Oregon and Washington locations for a national chain, but that corporation chose to cut costs by moving its floor cleaning services in-house.
So the Pollnows joined millions of other Americans on unemployment as the pandemic progressed.
They didn’t like it.
“I sat for a year and that was boring. If that’s what retirement’s like, no thanks,” said Bill Pollnow, 60.
This spring, they launched their new business, 3 Potato More. They serve loaded baked potatoes and related items to customers in both Lebanon and Albany using the remodeled shuttle bus which they previously used to haul their floor cleaning equipment.
“We had the bus already and after sitting for a year I wasn’t ready to retire. We were thinking about what to do and around my family, we love stuffed baked potatoes. We just went from there with it,” Pollnow said.
They operate the food truck in Lebanon Tuesday through Friday in the parking lot of the Hideaway Distillery, 4120 S. Santiam Highway. There is easy access to the location off Crowfoot Road.
They open each day between 10 and 11 a.m. and serve until they run out of potatoes. On the weekend, they set up at Timber Linn Park in Albany where they serve competitors and spectators at the tournaments in the park.
Bill Pollnow said customers are already finding their way to the Lebanon location and he thinks the site will get even better when Hideaway Distillery opens to the public.
“I think we’re going to help each other out a lot,” he said.
The new venture allows Sandi Pollnow to take the lead role in the family business. She does all of the cooking while her husband handles the front end.
“I have been cooking since I was 6. This is my thing. I’ve always done businesses with him and so now it was my thing,” she said. “I enjoy it, being away from the house and cooking for other people.”
She likes the daily routine in the food truck and is happy for the change from the floor cleaning business, which was very demanding.
“It’s an hour set-up, an hour take down, and serving people, which is awesome,” Sandi Pollnow said of the food truck.
While she is in her comfort zone, Bill Pollnow had to learn some new skills. He had never before operated a cash box or a credit card machine. But he does know how to talk to customers.
“I get to talk and meet people. I love that part,” he said.
The couple got some help from two of their sons, Nic and Adam, in adapting the vehicle to serve as a food truck. Their sons converted the interior, installed the cabinets and appliances, ran all of the electrical, and put down the flooring.
Their menu is simple, featuring baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and potato skins. For breakfast, they serve egg boats, stuffed biscuits and gravy, and special breakfast cupcakes.
Sandi’s cheese sauce is a customer favorite, so they added potato dippers to the menu. Slices of potato are topped with cheese and bacon. Customers then dip the slices in the cheese sauce.
The menu is simple and old-fashioned in a way, requiring little explanation. But it is also well-suited to many customers’ concerns about their own dietary restrictions such as being gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian or vegan. Customers choose their own toppings so it is easy to place an order that meets any of those needs.
Those who want to add some protein to their lunch can choose from shredded beef, chicken or pork, as well as bacon.
“We can feed everybody for the same cost,” Bill Pollnow said. “We keep it simple here.”