Bella Mack grew up in her parents' food truck.
She and her sister Gabby learned fractions through recipes, both being homeschooled. And beyond what the family calls "food truck math," they learned about goals and business.
So when Lee Buckner, owner of Southern State of Mind food truck, decided it was time to pass on the chef's knife due to an injury, Mack and her husband Adam stepped up. The Macks have taken over operations of the Ormond Beach-based food truck, effective Friday, Feb. 2, an occasion celebrated at Copper Bottom Distillery in Holly Hill. Ownership will transfer to the Macks in March.
"It's definitely exciting that it's finally here, and it's a little nerve-wracking at the same time," Bella Mack said.
Buckner opened the Southern State of Mind food truck in 2015. He and his wife Jennifer started cooking out of the back of their Honda Element at Ormond Brewing Company, and since then, not only have they acquired a food truck, but it has been part of numerous community events for last several years. Buckner even got the chance to cook for comedian and songwriter Tim Hawkins when he did a show at Tomoka Christian Church.
"We knew going into it that we were never going to get rich, but everything has been made from scratch," Buckner said. "Everything has been made with love. We love what we do."
When the Buckners started their food truck, there weren't many in the Ormond Beach area. Then in 2018 and 2019, they faced challenges when the city of Ormond Beach was considering regulations on where food trucks should be allowed to operate.
Currently, food trucks are allowed to operate during community or neighborhood events, at breweries and in the B-8 Commercial and I-1 Light Industrial zoning districts.
"The bottom line is this: The last eight years doesn't happen without the support of our community — hiring us for private events, coming out to the events, coming out to breweries and distilleries and eating at our truck," Buckner said.
The food truck also survived the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns thanks to the community, he added. Buckner hopes they will continue to support the food truck, now in the hands of his daughter and son-in-law.
His wife, Jennifer Buckner, said she couldn't ask for anything better than handing the food truck to them.
"It is so emotional and awesome," she said. "I couldn't ask for anything more. This is a dream to be able to have that legacy and pass it down."
Their youngest daughter Gabby will continue to work on the truck as well. It's fun, she said. She often sees her friends while working community events. The truck also holds a lot of school memories for her.
"Lots of math in the cab," Gabby Buckner said.
When Bella Mack was little, her mother Jennifer Buckner recalled, she used to say she was going to turn the food truck one day into a cupcake truck.
No cupcakes yet, but Mack, who loves baking, is hoping to offer more desserts soon. On the first night of her and her husband's operation, they offered key lime pie.
Mack, 21, started selling key lime pies from the food truck when she was around 12 years old.
"When they were making dinner, I was always the one making dessert and everything for all our events because I've always had a sweet tooth," she said. "
Two years ago, she also started her own wedding planning company, Events by Bella Grace.
What will the Buckners be up to now? Jennifer Buckner is a travel agent and hopes to dedicate more time to that. Lee Bucker be focusing on his real estate career with Lifestyle Realty Group.
"I'm excited to see what I can do being able to devote full time to it," he said.
Mack said she's hoping to branch out to more local businesses and continue to expand the food truck's reach.
Her parents were often asked if they would ever pursue opening a restaurant. For Mack, it's a long term goal.
"That's the dream," she said.