As the story goes for millions around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic put plans and work on hold for Ray Maestas when it first hit in 2020. Promptly, the restaurant Maestas was working at closed, and he suddenly had extra time on his hands.
“Oregon is one of the only places I know of that allows food carts to just serve beer, so I wanted to see how far I could take that,” he says. After asking county and city officials for the green light to owning his own cart, he wondered if there was “a reason why there’s no carts on the west side of the city? They’re all on the east side in other counties.”
Asking these questions to city and county officials, he was told that there was no reason—simply that nobody had ever asked to place their cart on the west side.
So, he began his Google search for double decker buses for sale.
“I found a gentleman in Salt Lake City that was selling his buses because of the pandemic,” he notes. Maestas got a loan, paid the man, and after a month of trying to get the bus over the Rocky Mountains, his seller was not able to get it to him.
However, rather than letting the bus idea go all together, his contact in Utah put Maestas in contact with a bus salesman in London—and the plan moved forward.
The bus left the port in Southampton, “which is the same port the Titanic [sailed from],” Maestas says. It shipped down through the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal, and landed in Oxnard, California..
Then the work began.
He named his business Rachel and Rose after his two grandmothers. Maestas built all the tables and the bar from old river wood, taking his time as there wasn’t anywhere he could have opened due to the pandemic. While constructing, Maestas searched around for a food cart pod (a group of food carts) to join that didn’t already have a cart that sold only liquor because each pod, per Portland law, is only allowed one liquor license—and many already had one.
Eventually, a pod found his Instagram account and asked if he was interested in joining in downtown Portland. “Every single one of my friends told me, ‘That’s a horrible idea,” he says, concerned as the area he would be placed in was struggling with criminal activity. And so, on the first day he had his cart downtown, someone graffitied the entire side of his bus. But it didn’t hinder his work and he maintained hope that there was light at the end of this tunnel.
The bus itself is a cafe by morning and pub by afternoon, though he notes that he’ll have visitors buying beers when most would be buying a latte. For the coffee bar, Maestas has lattes, chai, espressos, and everything in between—except cold brew, which he hopes he will get soon.
As for the pub, Rachel and Rose has six beers on tap, various canned cocktails—including Bloody Marys and margaritas from a vendor in Bend—and a decent wine selection. “I try to keep everything from Oregon,” he says. “[And] I’m trying to know as much as I can about all the wines and beers I serve,” noting that he’s taken various courses to obtain said education.
While Rachel and Rose doesn’t sell food itself, Maestas does allow guests to bring in food from other carts to eat with the coffee or beer they buy from the bus. As it is a double decker, the bar is on the lower level along with minimal seating, and the second level is home to a half-covered patio with the majority seating. There is no designated private seating area for groups, but he often has groups come in for casual private events like happy hours.
“It’s not what I set out to do, but what it’s kind of become is this little, tiny … beacon of hope that the area [I’m in] is turning around,” says Maestas. The bus stays in the same spot downtown and is open year-round. “It makes people feel like there’s hope for downtown Portland,” he says. Maestas hopes that his cart and the pod he is a part of will draw other carts to the area, along with making people feel a little safer when visiting the city.