Windsor couple turn egg rolls into a full-time endeavor

  • Messay Hall, right, owner of Munchie-Rollz, laughs with Shaunna Hafford, of Windsor, Vt., at the Windsor Recreation Center on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Hall says she likes running her own business because she gets to make a variety of foods and can adjust her offerings when she figures out what her customers like. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Marvin Mentor removes egg rolls from frying oil and places them on a baking sheet to cool in the Munchie-Rollz business kitchen in their home in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. Munchie-Rollz offers 10 different flavors of egg rolls, including steak and cheese, chicken and avocado and Ethiopian breakfast. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Marvin Mentor, left, fries buffalo chicken egg rolls while Messay Hall adds soul hamburger mac filling to egg roll wrappers as they prepare a wholesale order for Singleton's General Store in Proctorsville, Vt., in their business kitchen on the top floor of their home in Windsor, Vt., on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. The couple is in the kitchen at all hours, waking up before dawn to make their fillings, and preparing and packaging egg rolls in the afternoon before their children get home from school. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Customers gather outside of the concessions window where Messay Hall, center, owner of Munchie-Rollz, sells egg rolls and other hot dishes at the Windsor Recreation Center in Windsor, Vt., on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Hall and her husband Marvin Mentor sell their food during youth basketball games held at the center on Thursday evenings. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

For the Valley News
Published: 3/9/2022 6:06:46 AM
Modified: 3/9/2022 6:06:13 AM

WINDSOR — Messay Hall has always loved cooking, and she knew after experimenting in her kitchen with egg roll recipes several years ago that she wanted to turn the idea into something more, she just didn’t know when.

While living in Arizona several years ago and working a variety of jobs in sales, Hall brought some of her homemade egg rolls into the office of a timeshare company she was working for. “They sold out in 30 minutes,” she said. Hall realized that she could turn her cooking hobby into a side hustle.

“I was kind of scared to start (a business), Hall, now a 30-year-old Windsor resident, said. “It’s not something you can start by yourself; there’s a lot of work to it.”

Since her light-bulb moment, Hall, who grew up in Windsor and Norwich, moved back to the Upper Valley with her two young daughters. Finding new inspiration through her relationship with God, Hall reunited with her passion as a cook and entrepreneur.

From there, everything else seemed to fall into place. Hall met her husband, Marvin Mentor, of Windsor, and together they founded Munchie-Rollz, sharing their innovative egg rolls with the Upper Valley. Hall and Mentor’s modus operandi is to work hard while going with the flow, and trusting that good things will follow.

“We didn’t think we’d be here,” Hall said. “There’s no blueprint.”

Over the past year, they’ve steadily built up their offerings. Munchie-Rollz makes 10 different egg rolls in decidedly non-traditional flavors, all made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Most popular are the chicken and avocado and steak and cheese rolls. They offer vegetarian options such as a “Veggie Burger” egg roll as well as an array of side dishes, including homemade mac and cheese.

Working out of their Windsor home kitchen, they deliver their food to a handful of local stores: Dan and Whit’s, in Norwich, the 12% Solution in Cornish, Singleton’s General Store in Proctorsville, Vt., Woodstock Farmer’s Market and Ascutney Market.

With no commercial equipment in their kitchen, Hall and Mentor work methodically, cutting up vegetables, assembling egg rolls by hand and frying them eight at a time in two cast iron pans of oil on their four-burner stove.

“We believe in consistency when it comes to food,” Hall said, who makes sure egg rolls are always delivered within hours after they are made.

Hall learned to cook in the Windsor Mansion Inn kitchen, where she worked for about a year in her teens. Hall finished high school at a boarding school in Maine before attending college at Johnson & Wales University where she studied hospitality management. She then returned to the Upper Valley and worked detailing cars at Gateway Motors, her father, Charlie Hall’s car dealership in White River Junction.

She moved to Arizona in 2013 because she was “young and stupid” and wanted to try something new, she said. In Arizona, Hall had felt lonely: “nobody believed in me and nobody gave me a chance,” she said. When she returned home three years ago, all she had was “$20 and two children to (her) name.”

Hall and Mentor, 27, met by chance in July 2020. They clicked instantly and Hall invited Mentor on what was supposed to be a “girls’ road trip” for her birthday, where she and her daughters, Tianna, 8, and Brianna, 6, planned to visit and celebrate with a friend in the Carolinas. To Hall’s surprise, Mentor agreed. The trip was a success, and the pair moved in together soon afterward. They have lived together and been business partners ever since. They were married in August 2021, just one week after their engagement.

“I bought my dress on Amazon and it didn’t come until the day before,” Hall said.

The kind of serendipity that led to their marriage has been as important to their business as hard work. If they have a larger plan, it’s not entirely in their hands.

“This is all a matter of time and effort and God,” Mentor said, explaining that their faith also plays a great role in their methodologies as business owners. The family attends the Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Windsor.

“(God) gave me exactly what I asked for,” Hall said. “The Lord (is) guiding us.”

Hall and Mentor hope to share the message of their good fortune with their customers and the community as Munchie-Rollz grows and prospers.

Hall said she’s also grateful to be able to maintain a comfortable balance between work and life, which is important to her from a mother’s perspective.

“I’m a mom first,” she said.

Hall teaches her daughters the ins and outs of running a business, letting them help on “sauce day,” when the family prepares custom sauces for each of the 10 egg rolls on their menu. When her daughters turn 13, Hall plans to buy them each their own vending machine so they can learn to navigate the responsibilities of running their own business.

As her own boss, Hall can set her own schedule, but the pressure to produce is constant.

“You can’t have off days,” she said. “Sometimes we’ll be up at 2 in the morning just cooking.”

Hall is drawn to the concept of “flexible money.” With no fixed income, Munchie-Rollz’s success depends on the work she puts into it.

“I can make more, or if I don’t make that money, then it’s my fault,” she explained

Making money aside, Hall and Mentor also draw motivation from community feedback and support. By building a rapport with community members through Facebook and catering local events, they are able to make business decisions that reflect the interests of their customer base, such as adding to their menu or bringing their products to new locations.

“We get to grow with people and grow as people,” Mentor said. “We see value through people.”

Recently, Hall and Mentor have been working to add at least four more stores to their delivery route, expanding their reach to Hartland, Springfield and White River Junction. Eventually, they foresee bringing their food to the frozen aisle, and they hope to move out of their home kitchen and into a larger space. Along the way, they plan to keep busy, stay humble and see where their hard work takes them.

“We just go with the flow,” Hall said.

“(We) would rather grow and build this than focus on anything else,” Mentor added.

Munchie-Rollz offers curbside pickup and some delivery options. Menus can be viewed on their Facebook page, and orders can be placed by calling 802-738-9022.




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