An Aspen food truck comes to be during crazy year
The year of the pandemic brought Brad Matthews the joys of a new son and the agony of a seriously burnt hand, so he did what anybody would do in that situation: He opened a food cart.
Users of the Aspen Recreation Center or patrons of the Popcorn Wagon when it was Ajax Donuts a few years ago might recognize Matthews as the face behind their orders.
At the ARC, where he most recently was, Matthews ran the food service and built a following for hot and cold sandwiches, pizza, salads and other quick eats that didn’t break the bank. With daily visits from school students, kids and adults, along with hockey tournaments, ice-skating events and competitive swimming races, the ARC consistently had hungry mouths for Matthews’ business to feed.
That ended in March, when Matthews closed his space one day and the city closed the ARC the next because of the pandemic. The ARC currently is open on a limited, reservations-only basis.
“That business was great,” he said, “and I felt very lucky being in the restaurant business and having that space, because I know when the ARC opens my business will bounce back overnight.”
The city, however, worked out a deal so he could open a food cart on the parking lot outside the ARC, and store his food inside the building. He was hoping to open this summer but he suffered serious burns to his right hand from a kitchen fire. Matthews and his wife also had a new baby boy, born in May, and their older daughter’s activities were limited because of the pandemic. As well, Matthews recovering from a serious bicycle crash earlier that year.
Needless to say, Matthews has had a few things going on.
“It has been insane,” he said. “I’ve spent more time with doctors and in hospitals.”
With a hand that is healing and a family that is healthy, Matthews also is seeing more time at what is now called the Red Wagon and Pantry. It had a soft launch during Aspen Junior Hockey’s Fall Faceoff tournament in late October.
The wagon is equipped with a deep fryer, so Matthews can make french fries and other yummies. They also make burgers, cheesesteak sandwiches and falafels, for example.
“Nothing on our menu is over $12,” he said.
Matthews said he’s appreciative to have the work during hard times.
“This is probably the biggest kitchen I’ve had since I’ve lived in Aspen,” he said.
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Pitkin County’s new $1.3 million grant program for local businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic is set to begin later this week with more money available per business than originally planned.