Just looking at Josh Romaker’s handiwork might make your stomach growl. At Caged Crow Customs in Saint Germain, Wisconsin, Romaker builds stylish, attention-grabbing food carts and trailers that fit the flavors and personality of the eatery. Caged Crow also creates one-of-a-kind concessions trailers and pop-up shops.
“We’ve never built the same thing twice here at Caged Crow,” Romaker explains in this Baileigh Biography video. “Every project is unique to the max.”
Romaker previously worked installing garage doors for a small business he owned with his grandfather. When business slowed down during the recession, Romaker had to figure out a new plan. He sold everything, bought a used welder, and rented a “rundown, damp, dark shop.”
He eagerly took the jobs that came his way: “I did welding repair. I built utility trailers. I mean, just whatever I could do.”
One day, opportunity knocked. A customer came in with a food cart in rough shape. Even the trailer tongue was rusted and bent. Romaker made his diagnosis: “I said, ‘Lady, there’s no fixing this. You need a new food cart. And she said, ‘Well, can you build me one?’”
Hungry for business, Romaker took on the project. “I had no experience with commercial kitchens at this time,” Romaker recalls. But, he thought to himself, “Gotta eat. Got bills to pay.” He rose to the challenge and created an adorable cottage-themed food cart, complete with cedar siding and a pitched roof.
Romaker’s resourcefulness and can-do attitude paid off and led him to a lucrative niche: “Before you know it, I did another one and another one. And the rest is history. I’ve been building food trucks and trailers nationwide and ever since and it’s been a blessing.”
A programmable tube bender from Baileigh helps Romaker create fancy curves that make his designs all the more striking and functional. “This is a huge addition to our shop,” he explains. “We build a lot of replica camper builds here. with kitchens inside. Whether it’s for coffee or ice cream campers, the old vintage trailers… they have a lot of curves and bends going on, so we use this to replicate that. And I honestly couldn’t I couldn’t build a lot of the trailers we do without it.”
The Baileigh bender has opened up new design possibilities at Caged Crow. “Before we had that bender, a lot of the stuff we did was very boxy and very square.” To camouflage the boxiness, they had to spend extra time getting creative with trim work or other means.
“Quite honestly, I don’t think… we’d be able to stand out in a crowd as much as we do without it,” says Romaker. He’s excited to buy more dies and put the machine to even more use.
When we visited Caged Crow Customs, Romaker showed us a work in progress: a retro 50s diner kitchen for a lobster roll company in Maine.
“This project in particular I could not have done without my Baileigh bender. It did the entire rough profile. It did the entire wall profile,” he notes. “The whole trailer, it’s all bent, which I think really gives it a really cool aesthetic look. This has been a fun build.”
At the time, Romaker reflected, “It’s tricky trimming and finishing corners to say the least, so it’s definitely been a time consuming project but I’m excited for the end result. And we’re almost done.”
Later we got a picture of what the finished trailer looked like.
As the business expands, self-sufficiency enables Caged Crow to maximize profits. “We build our own custom doors here for our trailers and trucks. We build our own windows, sink cabinets. wall cabinets, all kinds of stuff that requires a lot of framing.”
Romaker’s Baileigh bender also factors into some new ventures at Caged Crow, including a coffee cart design that he hopes to put into production. “It’s going to have internal plumbing and electrical package. It’ll be on caster wheels and then we’re also going to use our Baileigh bender to create a matching theme trailer to haul this cart on with a flip-down ramp.”
He also uses the bender to experiment outside of the business’s current niche. “Furniture is one of those things that I love to play around with. Been trying to get creative and think outside the box a little bit with how I can utilize the Baileigh bender for making custom furniture.” Romaker shows off a desk with a “really cool tubular bent look” and a stool with a curved steel tubing base. “I think the whole combination of wood and steel is pretty rad, custom furniture too.”
If you ever wanted to learn metalworking, but didn’t know where to start, try what Romaker did. “I didn’t have any metal shaping background. I literally had to learn everything on my own. I didn’t have a teacher. I didn’t go to school. Between YouTube videos, asking questions, getting lost in the rabbit hole of forums and metal shaping, you kind of just learned.”
On his quest to learn, Romaker discovered Baileigh’s “inspirational” social media presence: “Baileigh was probably one of the first feeds that I started following and I remember first starting out, looking up to all of these shared posts of all these hot rod builders and fabricators, just utilizing their machines… and building amazing things,” he recalls.
“It pushed me to learn more and it pushed me to take risks and take chances.”
Now Romaker’s work inspires other fabricators through the #BaileighArmy on Instagram. Our own social media guru Shane Henderson shares Romaker’s impressive builds with Baileigh’s millions of followers. “We’ve gained some followers from it, and it’s awesome,” says Romaker.
A touch of whimsy makes Caged Crow Customs a fun shop to visit. When the business needed more space for an office, Romaker created a loft from part of an old school bus, left over from a previous project. “We cut it up and lifted it up and now it’s my wife’s office, to keep an eye on me!”
Fans of The Breakfast Club will chuckle at the John Bender decal that gives Romaker’s machine that little extra bit of individuality. Romaker gives the credit for that visual pun. “It’s a great conversation piece.”
The business has enabled Romaker to provide for his family. “Obviously, I want to leave something for my kids too whether they take over this business or not. I want them to know that their dad worked hard and did whatever he had to do to put food on the table.”
Beyond specific projects, Romaker finds fulfillment in the hard work and creativity of his business. “At the end of the day, I just want to be known as a guy who worked with his hands his whole life and did what he loved… building something from nothing.”
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