How did food trucks get so popular? Well, sometimes it's been pointed out that food trucks have their roots in the old chuck wagons that served the cattlemen.
That's why it's very appropriate for me to post this article about Brady's Chuckwagon Catering that ran in the Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine back on July 30, 1972.
It's an interesting article that once again shows how John L. Brady of Brady's Restaurant fame was way ahead of his time with his fleet of mobile food trucks. (I have a lot of great, new material about Brady's Restaurant and John Brady's other business endeavors that will be showing up here on the blog soon.)
The Plain Dealer article is kind of long, so I'm serving it up in two digestible portions.
Photostory by Tom Kaib
“It was just a fact of life in Lorain County,” says John L. Brady, “that a boy wouldn’t be caught dead car-hopping. He just wouldn’t and couldn’t make it. He would be laughed out of the county. And this is pretty similar, so I hired girls.”
“This” is Brady’s Chuckwagon Catering, Inc., a 20-route (and expanding) operation he started four years ago with one truck after growing up in his parents’ restaurant business. The girl driver idea is working so well it’s driving competing caterers to such ploys as offering gigantic doughnuts at giveaway prices. But it’s hard to compete with someone like Mildred (Midge) Gore of Vermilion when she jumps out of her little red truck at a stone crusher in the Flats or a construction site at 12th and Superior. She’s a tiny little thing with sky blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair (see cover), a molasses-dipped voice with a Logan County, West Virginia, lilt. She’s filled out like an 18-year-old beauty queen and she can’t not smile.
When Midge hits the changer on her belt and turns her sky blues up into a hardhat with a really sincere “thanks hon, have a nice day,” he looks like he’s been soaking in a vat of Jurgens [sic] lotion for two months. The big cheap doughnut guys don’t stand a chance. One Mohawk high iron worker wants Midge carrying his banner. He put a “Think Indian” sticker on her truck bumper.
But no go. She’s got a husband who runs a service station and races cars and three children, which is why she doesn’t mind getting up at 3 in the morning to drive from Vermilion to Lorain, order her stores, load her truck and be in Cleveland by 5 a. m. That way she can be home by 2 or 3 in the afternoon and be with the kids. And a hard-working smiler like Midge can turn $200 to $250 a week on her salary-with-commission, John Brady says. But the average for 19 girls and one guy is $150 to $200. The one guy is Harry Bell of Grafton, a long-time veteran catering driver who can hold his own with the female competition.
“At 140 degrees, everything stays moist,” Marge Gencur says. It’s very similar to airline food operations."
Marge sets up the routes, teaches drivers the geography and trouble shoots. She’s the one who scouts around for the four or five services stations in each city that will make a road call to fix a flat or get a stalled truck going. The drivers just carry the phone numbers, they don’t have to worry about repairs.
Next: Brady's unique solution for preparing and delivering hot, fresh coffee