How a former art professor’s waffles found a new home at NKU
April 1, 2023
When it comes to making waffles, Marty Meersman has it down. What started as a hobby over a decade ago for Meersman—making waffles for fun, family, friends and students as an effort to embrace his Belgian heritage—became much more for the former NKU art professor and alum.
Now, almost 11 years later, it’s a full-circle moment for the business owner as students can enjoy Marty’s Waffles at Create Chop’d & Wrap’d in the Student Union.
Meersman, an Alexandria, Kentucky native, was let go from the university back in 2014 after budget cuts within the art department and the university. Following this, Meersman decided he needed to expand his hobby into his own business as a “plan B option,” he said, where he operated his business selling waffles through a food truck and going to local events and businesses within the Northern Kentucky region.
In recent years, the growing business has moved to specialize in more wholesale and private events, with Meersman selling his waffles to local coffee shops in the Northern Kentucky area as an effort to keep the waffles accessible to consumers close by.
“We’ve kind of got our eggs in several different nests. Keeping it in the food truck alone can be a little risky, so we’ve branched out a little bit and stabilized the income a little bit more,” Meersman said.
Some of the local businesses serving Meersman’s waffles include Trailhead Coffee and even Perfect North Slopes. Along with that, NKU now offers Meersman’s waffles in the Student Union through the food service program Chartwells.
After being approached by Chartwells six weeks ago, Meersman said that he couldn’t turn the offer down. He added how he’s excited to be back where all the waffle creations began, when Meersman would make his waffles to reward students for good work.
“It’s nice to be back in the area. This is where it started, unknowingly,” Meersman said. “I was just simply sharing the waffles with my students trying to get some feedback, and 10 years later, we’re branching out and expanding the wholesale business.”
Some of Meersman’s signature waffles include Liege, which is soft like a pretzel but sweet like a glazed doughnut, along with their most popular waffle which is a sea salt and caramel waffle with Maker’s Mark bourbon whipped cream.
Other waffle creations you can indulge in are the waffle breakfast sandwiches, which are sliced waffles with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and bacon, goetta or sausage.
Although the business found much success through food trucks, this year Meersman’s goal was to step back from operating the food truck where it all started. He stated how the era of operating his business through a food truck was successful in reaching large numbers of people through events like Taste of Cincinnati, a week-long event in the heart of downtown Cincinnati where you can try a bunch of local restaurants and food.
But working these types of events each year has been taxing on the business owner, and he said he’s ready to move on.
“It’s not uncommon to work 60 to 80 hours a week sometimes. Taste of Cincinnati was a seven-day commitment, and in the peak [of the event], you’re only getting three or four hours of sleep,” Meersman said. “But it’s also one of the best opportunities you can have. You’re never going to be in front of half a million people with your product for so little of a fee. It’s a great opportunity, but it’s time to move on.”
Meersman gave insight into what this will look like, stating that moving away from food trucks into wholesale has allowed for more flexibility with his work schedule after sacrificing important family events to keep the business afloat throughout the last decade.
“With moving to more of a wholesale business, I can control the hours and those are usually during the week. Hopefully, I’ll have more of an open schedule on the weekend where I can spend time with family,” Meersman said.
You can find Marty’s Waffles at the Create Chop’d & Wrap’d station in the Student Union and throughout the Northern Kentucky region. For more information, or to see where Marty’s Waffles is going next, visit http://www.martyswaffles.com/index.html.