Milwaukee-based Lumpia City started out as a humble pop-up stand pulled from a garage. Over the past seven years, the company has grown to become a well-known name in Milwaukee, operating a concession stand at Fiserv Forum and selling its products at 23 locations.
Lumpia City founders Samantha Klimaszewski and Alexa Reyes were just 22 years old when they began offering their take on Filipino food to the masses in the summer of 2015.
Reyes, a California native, met Klimaszewski by chance after she took a spur of the moment road trip to San Diego. Klimaszewski decided to make the move from Wisconsin to San Diego after the couple made an undeniable connection. They deepened their bond through a shared history of entrepreneurship in both their families.
When discussing possible business ventures to embark on together, Reyes brought up lumpia, a traditional Filipino food similar to an egg roll. Traditional forms of lumpia are often made with ground pork and mixed vegetables.
“Being from Wisconsin, I kind of asked if she’d ever used mac and cheese in something like this,” said Klimaszewski. “My Wisconsin brain went to that. From that little conversation, we started going to farmers markets in San Diego.”
The couple began making what they could on a weekly basis within a shared kitchen space in San Diego. But a push from farmers market organizers to have vendors operate out of food trucks – along with the high cost of living in California – led the duo to move back to Milwaukee in 2016.
“We were here visiting, and we saw the food truck industry was starting to take off,” Klimaszewski said.
Soon, Lumpia City’s concession trailer began popping up at Milwaukee street festivals. Klimaszewski and Reyes also targeted microbreweries as a cost-effective way to gain exposure.
From the company’s shared kitchen space on North Jefferson Street in downtown Milwaukee, Lumpia City is now producing approximately 8,000 to 10,000 units a month. Each piece of lumpia is rolled by hand.
Prior to the shared kitchen space downtown, the Lumpia City crew was working out of the now-shuttered Iron Grate BBQ Co. on South Howell Avenue on days the restaurant was closed.
Lumpia City offers a variety of flavors including Korean beef, five-cheese mac, chicken enchilada and reuben.
“Growing up, my family would experiment with different flavors like Mexican-style flavors and Italian. Because lumpia is fairly unknown, putting familiar flavors into this product is, I think, what gets people to come and try it,” said Reyes. “Then they’ll hopefully go out and seek traditional Filipino food.”
Lumpia City products are currently found in all full-service Sendik’s Food Market stores and at Festival Foods locations in West Allis, Greenfield and Hales Corners. That’s in addition to Lumpia City’s concession stand at Fiserv Forum, which is run with the help of arena staff.
The couple credits Fiserv Forum’s former executive chef Kristen Schwab with getting them in front of the arena’s hospitality team. After seeing the product, Schwab recommended Lumpia City as a possible vendor for the arena.
Klimaszewski and Reyes are currently looking for their own building and want to invest in their own equipment to help automate their meat processing procedures.
Lumpia City was awarded a $120,000 Meat and Poultry Supply Chain Resiliency Grant (a state program funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act) last fall, which will help with the cost of new equipment.
“It’s like a whole new ballgame we’re entering from being a small vendor to being a wholesale company, and that’s where we’re realizing you have to take baby steps through this because there’s so much involved,” Klimaszewski said. “I don’t think this would be a conversation if we didn’t get that grant.”
Securing a new kitchen space is Lumpia City’s biggest goal for the year, along with expanding into other Midwest markets.
Lumpia City 770 N. Jefferson St., Milwaukee INDUSTRY: Food manufacturing EMPLOYEES: Two full-time, three part-time lumpiacity.com