SHERIDAN — In recent years, Sheridan has seen an emergence of new food trucks in the community. These trucks bring a diverse range of cuisine to the city in a unique fashion that allows them to share their food without being tied to a single location. While many citizens enjoy food from the trucks at special events around town or at a favorite bar, there is a lot more that goes on behind the windows and wheels than meets the eye.
For Travis and Elizabeth Hetland, the journey toward their own food truck, Hetty’s Wood Fire Pizza, started in June of 2018 as a “pipe dream.” Looking for a career change, the couple started thinking about how they could work independently while also having flexibility and freedom.
Soon, Travis Hetland’s pizza-making for fun and friends turned into a business model, and eventually, Hetty’s Pizza. Many food truck entrepreneurs follow different paths when creating their businesses.
Jamie Seaman has been running The Burger Wagon for 17 years after buying it from her parents that ran it before her. The Burger Wagon holds the title of the longest running food truck in Sheridan. For Seaman, the food truck business is “second nature.” She graduated with a hospitality management degree and has been in the restaurant business for a long time.
She uses all original recipes from the original owners of the wagon including the homemade jalapeno relish and special seasoning for hamburgers. The business used to cut and grind their own meat by hand, but now work with Sackett’s Market to grind the meat they use to fashion hamburgers.
“We do everything fresh daily so it’s a nonstop kind of thing when you want quality,” Seaman said.
While the aesthetic of a food truck seems appealing, there is a lot of work that goes into making a mobile kitchen.
During the creation of the Hetty’s Pizza truck, the process of taking a shipping container and turning it into a wood fire pizza oven took lots of time and teamwork.
“Because I come from a construction background, I knew the process of how it should go together so we just started cutting and hacking and welding and putting things together and we ended up with Hetty’s,” Hetland said.
Maxwell Foster opened Fired Up Food Truck this June and is one of the newer food trucks in Sheridan. He purchased his truck from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Foster hails from Buffalo, New York, and moved to Sheridan to be closer to family, but couldn’t find the same food as in New York.
“You can’t really get any pierogies or steak hoagies here in Sheridan,” Foster said. Still, the food truck platform has many pros and cons when compared to a brick-and-mortar traditional restaurant.
For Hetland, the pros are spending more time raising his children and meeting new people while doing business.
“We can go anywhere and serve anyone,” Hetland said. “Getting to meet lots of people and unique folks that I would have never ever run into on the street or been able to start a conversation with [is rewarding]…now my work takes me to unique and interesting places to do business.”
Foster agreed that people and partnering businesses are his staple.
“You can be at the local breweries and have a nice cooperation and relationship with them,” Foster said. “You park there, plug in your power and you bring people there and that’s why they really enjoy it.”
Food trucks also come with challenges. For Hetty’s Pizza, weather affects the truck and the dough to make pizzas, especially since the truck is made from a metal shipping container. In the winter, the truck is very cold and in the summer it warms significantly, especially since there is a wood fire oven inside. There is also the issue of food preparation and supply.
“I think that it’s owning a restaurant times two,” Foster said. “I don’t think people really understand that you can’t hold all your food on the food truck and you can only prep so much on a food truck. If you run out of something at a restaurant it’s easy to ask somebody just to make some up…It’s hard in the fact that you have to know exactly what to have on the truck at all times. If you run out of something there’s really nothing you can do about it.”
Food trucks also have to complete restaurant insurance and health food inspections with the additional car insurance and street permits. Limited water on the truck and the need to “plug in” for energy or purchase a generator also contribute to the difficulty of this unique business.
Still, the food truck community continues to grow and bring in new foods to excite the palate of Sheridanites and those visiting the city.
“Sheridan is such a great community for this type of venue and this type of entity because everyone is really supportive, and Sheridan kind of feeds itself, no pun intended,” Hetland said. “Everyone comes out and supports it, and everyone is looking for unique cuisine and looking for something a little bit different. I think the food truck scene is starting to be even more vibrant now where we can have a diverse array of all kinds of food which I think is really awesome.”
By Claire Schnatterbeck