MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (AP) – Blaine Fisher is a man on a mission.
Around Marshalltown and Conrad, Fisher is a familiar face. The 31-year-old man, suffering from an intellectual disability, can be seen regularly as a volunteer.
All in an effort to give back to the teachers, mentors, police officers and neighbors who touched his life and encouraged him to focus on his abilities rather than his disabilities.
Now, Fisher hopes to achieve his biggest goal yet – to become a small business owner.
“We wanted to give back to the people in the community who had been so good to me,” Fisher told the Register of Monks.
With the support of his family, Fisher is preparing to hit the road in the spring of 2022 in a big white food truck stamped with his company name, Blaine’s on Your Main, and a sketch of his face – a project that is here. culmination of hard work, preparation and advocacy.
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Fisher’s mission statement is also stamped on the truck: # 1man1meal1mission.
“We want everyone to know that just because you have a disability nothing can stop you,” said Fisher’s mother, Kandy Fisher.
Fisher was born with an intellectual disability and developed epilepsy at age 19. Early in his life, doctors told his family not to keep their hopes up for him. Determined to prove these doctors wrong, Fisher’s loved ones instilled in him the belief that it’s not his disabilities that make him who he is, it’s his abilities.
With his will and with a community of advocates there to cheer him on, Fisher has proven time and time again that these doctors are wrong. He got the honor roll in high school and was the manager of the football team. His resume includes extensive work experience, from janitorial duties for the high school bus barn to his eight years as an employee at the Casey General Store. He even received honors in athletics.
In 2014, he won four swimming medals at the Special Olympics USA Games at Princeton University. He’s also competed in cross-country skiing, biking and bowling, the latter mostly for good food, he says.
Blaine’s on Your Main started shutting down.
In 2019, the Fishermen searched for a brick and mortar location for Fisher’s business venture, Blaine’s on Main. It turned out to be more difficult than they thought and instead they decided to buy a food truck in October 2019. No longer intending to stay in one place, Fisher’s dad suggested adding “Your” on behalf of the company.
To prepare for the food truck’s debut, Fisher developed a business plan with help from Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Rehabilitation counselor Rhonda Draisey and other team members coached Fisher in his business and helped him receive a matching grant to fund the project.
Through the Social Security Administration, Fisher participated in the Plan to Achieve Self-Support program. Without the guidance and funding for these programs, Fisher would not be where he is today, his mother says.
Looking back, Fisher sees the pivot to a food truck from a brick and mortar location a blessing. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, his plans to start his business were delayed due to out-of-stock equipment. Her doctors have also advised her to stop her part-time job at Casey’s general store to reduce her risk of contracting the virus.
The break gave Fisher and his mom plenty of time to develop the food truck’s main course: smoked macaroni and cheese.
“A lot of the foods that I love make you fat… so pretty much home-style foods, in other words,” Fisher said. “We have tried (the macaroni and cheese) a number of ways at home.”
On the advice of Smokin ‘G barbecue owner Kim Gratopp of Marshalltown, who mentored the new business owner, Fisher selected a staple to focus on and perfect. Fisher loves funky food and flavors, from crocodile to habanero ice cream. But for the food truck, he wanted to create something that everyone could love. He landed on one of his favorite comfort food, mac and cheese, but with a twist.
Fisher’s mac and cheese spends two and a half hours in a smokehouse on the food truck. The smoker uses shickory wood chips to give the dish an ultra-savory, deeply cheesy flavor. Fisher spent time coming up with various toppings to complement the smoky dish, his favorite being the pepperoni, inspired by his work at Pizza Ranch. He tried dill pickle crisps and mac. He had a bacon mac. There is a mac with a medium grade soft pretzel soaked in it.
Each serving comes in a crispy conewich – an edible funnel made from bread – and Fisher plans to offer homemade sides, such as corn salad, as well as canned desserts and drinks.
Fishermen began connecting with local businesses in 2019 and early 2020 to bring Blaine’s on Your Main to their parking lots as pop-up locations. The food truck took to the Marshalltown Family Alley for a test drive, an event that drew members of the community to sample dishes and submit comments.
Always selfless, Fisher sees his business not only as a way to prepare his favorite foods and feed the community; he also intends to pay it forward in more ways than one.
Some of the names of the dishes will be inspired by the people who touched Fisher’s life, such as the ladies in the cafeteria and the employees of the bus barn at his high school. And one week per month, Fisher plans to donate all contributions from the Blaine’s on Your Main tip jar to a charity special to him. He is particularly interested in supporting members of the US military, veterans, and local officials like the police department.
Fisher doesn’t know any stranger. He’s a natural conversationalist with a big heart, and when he makes friends, he makes them for life.
Bobby Colin, 29, of the Grundy Center, knows this better than anyone. Colin and Fisher became kindergarten best friends at BCLUW, which serves the communities of Beaman, Conrad, Liscomb, Union, Whitten and rural Marshalltown. Colin has already tasted some of Fisher’s creations.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for him,” said Colin. “He and I are pretty similar in that we both love our food. “
They are similar in other respects as well. Colin is drawn to opportunities to help others, much like Fisher, and works as an EMT for UnityPoint Marshalltown. Fisher has personally delivered smoked macaroni breakfasts to him more than once.
“Blaine is one of the most caring and generous people you can find,” said Colin. “He is always ready to reach out and help anyone who needs help or who is having a bad day.”
After the devastating EF-3 tornado that ravaged Marshalltown in July 2018, Fisher organized a local toy drive to brighten up Christmas for affected families. Now in its fourth year, the charity event gained momentum this year when members of the Chicago Bears donated gifts to Fisher.
“Win or lose, until the day I die they are my team,” Fisher said.
The gifts he collects go to the Salvation Army in Marshalltown, where corps officer Pam Kasten says the donations help families with 300 children up to 17 years old celebrate Christmas.
“We’re really grateful to people like Blaine,” Kasten said. “It’s really cool to see and have someone in your community who thinks of other people. “
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