COLUMBUS — The latest customer of D&R Chuckwagon stepped up to the window to place his order.
He went straight to one of the most popular choices on the menu — pie.
“They are the best pie makers in town, aren’t ya?” the man said.
Rita Mae Fuhr just laughed.
“You bet,” she replied.
Making his selection from a lineup of desserts that included homemade lemon, apple and cherry pies, just to name a few, the customer asked for a slice of coconut cream.
Fuhr held out a plate as her sister Dorothy Graybill cut a generous piece and served it, all done with smiles on their faces.
A little more good-natured ribbing between the women and customer took place before he was on his way.
The interaction with patrons is one of their favorite parts of running the food truck.
“It’s the people. It’s hard work, but then you see the people enjoy it,” said Graybill, 75.
The two have been preparing homemade food such as sloppy Joes, rolls and brownies to sell through D&R Chuckwagon since they got the truck in 2005.
They drive the mint-colored 1980 GMC to different events throughout the area, including the annual summer Antique Tractor and Gas Engines Show in Pawnee Park, which is where the interaction with the customer took place last year. The sisters get recognized most everywhere they go.
“We were in Schuyler and someone said, ‘I saw the green truck driving by so I had to come by to get a piece of pie,'” said Fuhr, 79.
Satisfying the appetites of customers is part of the fun for the pair, but the real reason they run the chuck wagon is to help others. A majority of the money they make is given to charity.
“A lot of people need help. They really do,” Graybill said. “You don’t realize that because so many of them don’t ask for help. We just want to step up to the plate.”
Their charitable venture began in the early 1990s when they wanted to help pay for a chairlift at the Eagles Club. Graybill’s husband was a disabled veteran and needed assistance to visit the club.
They started selling food at auctions, using a pickup as transportation.
“We just loaded all our coolers, tables, everything into our pickup,” Fuhr said.
By 1996, they raised enough money for the $8,000 chairlift. But they didn’t stop there. They got their own truck, which was modified to have a service window on the side.
The two continued to sell food from their new vehicle while giving the proceeds to causes the Eagles Auxiliary supports.
Neither can say exactly how much money they have raised, but they know it's in the thousands. They go to 40-50 events a year. Graybill, who learned her way around the kitchen from their mother, is the main cook.
“I didn’t take lessons. I’m not a fancy cook. I’m just a homecookin’ person,” she said.
Her sister doesn't have the same culinary skills. Fuhr said if you threw a pie she made at a wall, it would bounce. So she handles all the “odd stuff” for the chuck wagon by getting the ice, chips and other items together.
The two live across the street from each other in Columbus, which makes it easy to get all the prep work done inside Graybill’s state-licensed kitchen.
After starting their food business, they said the buzz about D&R Chuckwagon spread.
“It’s all word of mouth, no advertising. If we would, we wouldn’t be able to handle everything. We still turn stuff down,” Graybill said.
Family members have helped at the truck, but it's usually just the sisters handling everything.
In addition to community events, the sisters also make food for the weekly bingo nights at the Eagles Club and cater wedding receptions, graduations and funerals.
They hope to continue baking, cooking and selling to make a difference for others as long as they can.
“As long as the good Lord is willing. We’ve got a few good years left in us,” Graybill said.