Just a few years ago, Sara Crowell flew C-130 cargo planes for the U.S. Air Force.
Now she’s flying a food truck downtown, serving up organic fare. The Local serves locally grown salads, and sandwiches with antibiotic- and hormone-free beef. They also have options for gluten-free and vegetarian dining.
The Local is one of six to eight food trucks downtown at the corner of Platte and Nevada avenues as part of the city’s Curbside Cuisine operation, which opened last month. The area is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., though individual trucks set their own hours.
The food trucks are an initiative of the city of Colorado Springs. The city charges $400 a month rent and requires vendors to operate on the corner, a former gas station, five days a week.
Business has been brisk, said food truck owners and operators.
“We’re doing something much different than before, but I love it,” Crowell said.
Crowell and her business partner Jo Marini met at the Air Force Academy. They graduated together in 2004. Their other business partner is Phil Petty.
The Local celebrates one year in business on July 1. The women plan to throw themselves a birthday party July 15, primarily to thank their customers and a select few individuals who helped them along the way.
Past business has been so good, they purchased Raven’s Nest Coffee House, 330 N. Institute St., a coffee shop that’s been in business seven years, Crowell said. They plan to infuse their philosophy of organic food into the coffee shop.
The only downside to the food truck business was when Marini lit her hair on fire and burned off her eyebrows. Also, she said, “This is our life.”
Nearby, business at the Karma Café has been good, said employee Alex Maestas. The café serves breakfast and lunch, including vegetarian and gluten-free items.
“This is a really good location” because people who work downtown don’t get to go home for lunch, Maestas said. Kirsten Gonyo is the co-owner, in partnership with her mother, Kelly Myers.
For something sweet, walk a few steps to The Heavenly Dessert Truck, with 28 menu items created by pastry chef Stephanie VanWuffen.
Patron Melissa DuPont came in recently just for the “ultimate maple bacon brownies,” a delight she saw advertised on the company’s Facebook page. By the time she arrived, Heavenly had sold out of the delicacy.
Other items include dark chocolate-covered strawberries, S’mores cupcakes, carrot cake cookie sandwiches, oatmeal peanut butter cookies, and more. A culinary-school and pastry-school graduate, VanWuffen said she plans to offer gluten-free items within a few weeks.
She has no storefront, but would eventually like to open a store; until then, “the cost is a lot less when you open a food truck,” she said.
Operated by Miguel Hernandez and his nieces, Milly Angel, 10, and Maria Angel, 11, Maco’s Tacos is open for breakfast with a burrito grande, and lunches include burritos, tacos, quesadillas and more. The girls help their uncle translate customers’ orders.
Meanwhile, a classically trained chef who formerly worked at five-star restaurants in the New Orleans area, Gus Botle operates the Creole Kitchen, which is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
After having trouble getting power to the food truck early on in the season, Botle said earlier this week with a wide grin, “everything’s resolved and I’m ready to go.”
The restaurant owner donates 25 percent of what he earns in tips to the musicians’ village in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, which was decimated by Hurricane Katrina.
The Crepe Crusaders are two brothers who are working the food truck that their parents formerly operated. Russell Keller, 18, and Forrest Keller, 20, learned the business from their parents, Tom and Linda.
They have done pretty well, they said, selling more than $300 a day in crepes and smoothies.
They, too, experienced trouble getting power to their food truck, so they operated with a generator. Now that the electricity is running smoothly, “it’s a lot quieter,” said Forrest Keller.