Who remembers Coasters?
With the popularity of food trucks back on the rise, it makes me think of this HCo business throwback.
Coasters was the second business I opened on January 11, 2011. Or 1-11-11.
Embarrassingly, back then I thought that was clever. Well, clever or not, it still meant that I was opening an outdoor food business, and trying to sell hamburgers in freaking January in a coastal beach town. Mistake # 1.
I think it actually rained ice that day.
Where Did Coasters Come From?
I opened Coasters while I was still in college working on my BBA. I was 30 years old, fresh out of the Marines, living on the GI Bill and what little money I could make DJ’ing weddings, (the beginning of Island Sound.)
Coasters was the product of an Entrepreneurship class project at The College of Coastal Georgia. Yep, Coasters was a homework assignment. Mistake # 2.
Coasters was a mobile food “truck" serving fresh, made-to-order burgers, hot dogs, paninis, and hand-cut fries. We were all over Glynn county, but we made our pay dirt working the late-night bar scene, during summer nights at the Pier Village, in front of Parker’s, and in Redfern next to Bubba’s. Our hours were between 10pm to 3am. Crazy, but it worked.
It actually wasn’t a truck at all, but a 20ft trailer. “Food trailer” didn’t have the same ring to it, so everyone just called it a food truck.
I couldn’t afford an actual food truck back then. Hell, I was still in college. Unlike all the owned food trucks in town today, I didn’t have a restaurant, commercial kitchen, or what the health department would call a “commissary.” I had to design and build out a fully customized and certified kitchen on wheels. Now, keep in mind, I had ZERO experience in restaurants. Mistake # 3. I wasn’t a chef, nor had I ever worked in a kitchen. My only credentials, at the time, were my own personal cooking skills. I’ve always enjoyed cooking.
Boy, did I ever build that trailer! It was built to the nines and equipped with all the “required health department” accoutrements. Including, but not limited to… a fryer, griddle, exhaust hood, freezer, fridge, three compartment sink, prep sink, clean and grey water wells with a water pump, and its very own onboard grease trap... thank you very much!
Good Memories, Great Lessons
Oh we had fun! Freezing in the winter, hot as hell in the summer… flat tires, angry people, drunk people, and angry drunk people, busted water tanks-because of curbs I shouldn’t have rolled over. (Yeah, I did that.)
Honestly, we did have good times. Awesome memories and friendships were formed. (See gallery at the end of this post.)
I first met Ben Mathews when he started at Coasters, flipping burgers. (Ben eventually went away to College and then came back, but that’s another post.) Ironically though, he is now the Director of Food and Beverage for HCo., and runs all 5 of our restaurants (soon to be 7).
Coasters taught me some very powerful, sometimes painful, lessons. I call Coasters my education, while I was getting my education. It taught me about food and labor cost, how to deal with local municipalities, and ordinances (FYI, this county HATES food trucks). It’s volatility and seasonality taught me the importance of budgeting and how to manage cash flow. A lesson that would come in handy, when one were to open a Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream shop in a tourist town. Haha. I was still a full time college student, so I needed good people. It taught me how to find and manage good people, and how to build leaders to lead in my absence.
Coasters was profitable, popular, and “successful” by most measures. It actually made good money, and I still get complimented on it to this day. But, I struggled envisioning it as a scalable business. What was I going to do? Open more food trucks in a town that hates food trucks? It was too demanding, and was keeping me from pursuing other goals. I didn’t have the team or the foundation back then that I do now. I ended up selling it when the next opportunity arose (Fuse Frozen Yogurt, rebranded as Fuse Frozen Co in 2019).
When people come to me to tell me that they want to own a food truck, the first words out of my mouth are,
“No, you don’t.”
When people come to me to tell me that they want to own a food truck, the first words out of my mouth is, “No, you don’t.” I know food trucks are “cool” and attractive, but you don’t see behind-the-scenes. If you ever get a chance to peek behind those curtains, you’ll see blood, sweat and tears… believe me. I have much respect and I give kudos to those who can pull it off. Believe me when I say... it is not as easy as they make it look.
I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Coasters, and what it did for me. Make no mistake, there would be no Henshaw Companies (Fuse, Jimmy Johns’s, or any future restaurant), if it wasn’t for this business. It truly planted a seed. I’m proud to have it in our archives as one of our brands. And who knows, I might get a wild hair one day.
Check out some memories from Coasters below.