SHERIDAN — What started as a big dream to create one food truck has turned into a community commissary kitchen and encouraging other dreamers in the food industry in Sheridan. Brian Miller and Antonia Armenta-Miller, owners of Bonafide Food Truck and Catering, are in phase two construction of their community commissary, expected to be up and running by June 1, 2019.
“Through the growth of the industry, more food trucks coming in to town, more local producers and wanting to be able to expand beyond the food freedom laws, producers need a community kitchen,” Armenta-Miller said.
Since moving to Sheridan, the couple had their eye on the former Fry Construction building on West Loucks Street. The building, set primarily for a single purpose of housing construction equipment and serving as the former business’ home base, remained vacant for several years because of its unique setup. The Bonafide couple had dreams, though, of creating a large, collaborative space for food dreamers throughout Sheridan to come and create in a commercial kitchen.
They purchased the 10.7 acres of land and the buildings atop the soil and started reconstructing the space to transform it into a commissary kitchen. Phase one of the project included the massive overhaul of the buildings. Sunday afternoon, the couple and their close friends worked diligently on laying tile, painting and other general contract work to progress it further.
Now, the space is needing financial backing to purchase the large-scale refrigerator and freezer unit.
“When you want a group of people to have enough storage, it requires a big walk-in fridge and freezer,” Armenta-Miller said.
“So we ordered the biggest one we thought we could fit in that space.”
A GoFundMe campaign began last week and will continue until full funding is obtained. The goal is to have the area fully functional and at top capacity in time for possible changing laws for food truck vendors throughout the state.
Carried through the winds of change were discussions of mobile vending regulations knocking the “Wild West” out of current law and formalizing it statewide.
Current regulations are primarily completed through local governments city- or county-wide, which makes mobile vending difficult to follow throughout the state, especially for those traversing more than one city or county with a food truck business.
House Bill 179 was sponsored by eight representatives and three senators in the Wyoming State Legislature. It would have required food trucks obtain a $100, one-year state food truck license from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. Stipulations recognize food truck vendors cannot prepare food in an in-home kitchen, but instead should be prepared in a commercial kitchen. The bill was not reported to the House Committee of the Whole out of the House Corporations Committee during the 2019 legislative session, but food truck owners anticipate by 2020, they’ll need something more than a small food truck to make large-scale preparations of their food sold to customers.
Maxwell Forster is one of those food truck owners interested in the upcoming community commissary. Forster, who moved with his family to Sheridan six months ago, anticipates starting up his food truck, Fired Up! around the same time as the community commissary opens for business. He’s appreciated Armenta-Miller’s support in him starting up a food truck business in Sheridan. A native of western New York, Forster plans on bringing the well-known beef on weck and perogies.
Their collaboration on his new business reflects the mission and purpose of Brian and Antonia in their new venture — collaboration, encouragement and accessibility. Armenta-Miller and Miller have faced questions about competition and fear associated with that and it becoming too large-scale.
“My personal motto, and Brian’s also, is just always, ‘Build a bigger table, not a higher fence,’” Armenta-Miller said. “The more you can do to help your fellow man — a business person, community — on all levels is important. Social responsibility and giving back to our community is one of the reasons why Brian and I chose Sheridan.”
Space-wise, six full-time producers should fit into the space, on top of around 20 small producers coming in weekly or bi-weekly on an hourly basis.
Creating a commissary is extremely cost-prohibitive, Armenta-Miller said, but they anticipate running it just to cover costs, making it as least cost-prohibitive for the community as possible.
Eventually, they anticipate creating a nonprofit to help acquire funds through grant opportunities for the operation. A similar operation, and one Armenta-Miller and Miller are clued into for ideas, started in Casper, Food for Thought.
The collaboration for these small businesses utilizing the space will also hopefully have the chance to meet with business incubator professionals willing to help them grow their businesses, if desired.
“It’s all about if someone has a vision, we would like to help them get there,” Armenta-Miller said. “…If you can see it in your mind’s eye, you can manifest your destiny. We’re walking proof of that. It’s not magic and it’s not free, but if you’re willing to work for something, it can happen.”
Sheridan holds a strong craft culture. That small-scale craft culture could potentially be widespread through the commissary.
“We coined the phrase, ‘People can take their product as far as they can dream,’” Armenta-Miller said. “If you can make it in a licensed kitchen, you can sell it in Sheridan, you can put it in our restaurants but you can also sell it all over Wyoming; you can put it on the internet and ship it out as long as it is produced and labeled properly.”
Some farmers market regulars may keep businesses exactly how they want them — visiting with local customers and fellow artisans every Thursday afternoon in the summer and Saturday morning at Landon’s Greenhouse, Nursery and Landscaping. Others in the Sheridan craft world, though, may want to ship their products nationwide or even globally.
What started as a dream is slowly turning to reality for the Bonafide duo, and they anticipate only growing from here.