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Editor's Note: This story originally ran on August 18, 2016. After a successful year serving coffee in the car line, Heather Rael and her husband, Gabriel, took a well-deserved summer vacation. Since the start of the 2017-2018 school year earlier this month, the Raels have been back at it again, serving coffee from their Caffé Olé food truck. The Raels also plan to expand their coffee business to a brick and mortar location in the coming months.
"Being at the school most days has allowed us to meet a big chunk of the school community and really get to know the families," Rael told TODAY.
When Leigh Fickling arrived at school drop-off earlier this week, the North Carolina mom was sure she saw a mirage waiting for her in the parking lot of the Expedition School, the charter school attended by her second-grade twins.
"I thought I saw a food truck at the back of the morning car line," Fickling told TODAY Parents in an email. "We all know that car lines are places of order and regulation — don't get out of line, don't cut in line, keep your eyes ahead and maintain order — could it be? A food truck?"
Although the truck looked inviting, Fickling didn't dare to lose her place in the car line to investigate its offerings. But later, when a private Facebook page for parents at the school confirmed the presence of the truck, Fickling knew her life would never be the same.
The truck, named Caffe Ole, is owned by another set of parents at the school, Gabriel and Heather Rael. Heather Rael says she and her family moved to North Carolina from New Mexico five years ago, and recently started the food truck as a side business, hoping to control their own work hours and connect with their community in a unique way.
"My husband was waiting in line recently to pick up our daughter and seeing all the cars just sitting there," said Rael. "He thought it would be nice to be able to get out of his car and get something to drink. He also remembered when I was a teacher and I always wanted a place where I could get a good cup of coffee, so hence the coffee truck at the school."
Rael says parents and teachers at the school have been thrilled to have the food truck set up in the morning. The truck sits in the back of the lot, so as not to disrupt the flow of the actual drop-off line. People can park and get coffee before or after the line.
For Fickling, the presence of the Caffe Ole truck has forever changed her morning drop-off experience.
"The first day I ordered coffee, I got to the school about 10 minutes before the law and order of the car line began," Fickling said. "I pulled right up to the cute little truck and proudly marched over, debit card in hand."
"I chose a cafe mocha — the biggest one they made," Fickling said. "As I threw my passengers out and wished them a happy day, I took a big gulp of my coffee and smiled because I knew that I would have a happy day, too."