By Scott Elpers - Photography by Aaron Patton
It might seem like Wichita’s food truck scene has reached its Golden Age, but for Crystal McDonald it’s been a family business for nearly three decades.
“My brother and I grew up in our parents’ food truck. It was called a concession trailer then, but I remember the day my dad brought it home,” McDonald said. “You name it, I guarantee we sold it out of that truck. My parents were never afraid to try new things. Our entrepreneurial spirit came from them.”
That truck, now 25 years old, is one of four in a fleet operated by McDonald and her brother Cody Lathrop. Nearly ten years ago, McDonald and Lathrop started Xclusive Event Services, a mobile bartending and event staffing and planning business. In the past five years, Xclusive has exploded into a fulltime business for the two siblings.
“We saw a need in the market,” McDonald said. “We have never bartended, but we knew how to run a business and we new service. We knew how to take care of people.”
McDonald isn’t exaggerating when she said they knew how to operate a successful business. Xclusive was named Wichita’s top small business by the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2016.
Xclusive caters parties, weddings, reunions and a growing list of large-scale events. The mobile bartending service operates out of the bright green truck. The Drink Local truck supplies local beers, teas and coffees, while ICT Fried offers the typical fare you’d expect at a large, outdoor event. The Tin Shaker, their new craft cocktail truck, was added this year.
“I never thought Xclusive would reach this level. I never imagined we’d be big enough that we have a large staff doing hundreds of events a year,” McDonald said. “I always thought it would be me and my brother bartending on the weekend for fun.”
Then there’s Bloktoberfest, an event cooked up by McDonald and Lathrop. The event quickly outgrew its space at Union Station in its inaugural year last fall. Bloktoberfest expanded to two days and moved to WaterWalk to accommodate a much larger crowd last month.
“Wichita had an Oktoberfest festival. We loved it as kids,” McDonald said. “We wanted to have our own event and we thought this was one thing Wichita lacked. It’s great to see Wichita support an event like that.”