Food trucks don’t go south for winter

These Halifax staples keep people fed even in the coldest months

The Gecko Bus on a rainy, cold January evening. (Photo: Hanna McLean)
The Gecko Bus on a rainy, cold January evening. (Photo: Hanna McLean)

Sherryl Campbell has the following responsibilities drive, cook, clean and shovel snow.

She is the owner and only employee of the food truck Soups On The Move.

“Sometimes I arrive at work and have to do half an hour of shoveling,” she says.

Campbell is used to working through all kinds of weather – it’s her fourth year running the truck year-round.

Soups On The Move can be found at the Dartmouth Surplus parking lot every day, serving up chowders, soups, chilis and sandwiches.

It is one of only three Halifax trucks that remain open after the traditional food truck season ends in November.

Campbell admits it’s not her best time of year business-wise, but she is busy enough that it’s worth going to work, no matter what the weather.

What keeps her coming out year after year?

“The people who come and are prepared and willing to stand out in the cold and wait to get their sandwich made or to serve up their soup,” she says.

Greg Wagner works on Habaneros’ Gecko Bus during the winter season. (Photo: Hanna McLean)
Greg Wagner works on Habaneros’ Gecko Bus during the winter season. (Photo: Hanna McLean)

The neon green scales of Habaneros’ Gecko Bus, the self-proclaimed “Canada’s Freakiest Food Bus,” also draw customers on cold days.

The full-size school bus has been retrofitted to look like a giant gecko complete with a tail that wraps around the end of the bus.

Mark Piper, the co-owner, says the bus does reasonably well in the winter.

“It’s enough that we can keep the doors open.”

The Gecko Bus was designed to work in all four seasons and is open twelve months of the year. The bus is a modern taco bar, serving tacos, burritos and taco bowls inside the bus.

The designer of the bus “wanted to build a food truck, but he didn’t want to be governed just by the May to November time frame most of them fall under,” says Piper.

“That’s why he designed the bus the way that he did. So people would come onto the bus, heated in the winter, air-conditioned in the summer.”

Piper says the Gecko Bus, which is parked in front of the Kent Building Supplies store in Bayers Lake, is strategically located to attract people who are travelling in their cars.

“There are 15,000 cars that drive by the bus in a day,” says Piper.

In order to make sure their vehicles are up and running in the winter, food truck owners need to take extra precautions.

Noah Connolly, owner of the Ol’ School Donut bus, says he has learned to prepare for the cold.

His bus is parked at the Canadian Tire in Dartmouth Crossing on Saturdays and at the Bedford United Church parking lot on Sundays.

After a pipe burst in the Ol’ School Donuts truck last year, Connolly is now more cautious when it comes to the winter season.

“The worst thing we have to worry about is pipes freezing on our bus. We have a fully operational sink. … If that freezes and the pipe bursts that can be a setback for a few weeks.”

The family-run donut bus also needs to make sure the supplies for the donuts are kept at a consistent temperature, or things could go sour.

“All the materials have to be brought inside as well, to our

storage,” says Connolly.

“We can’t leave them on the bus, so it’s a little more work for sure.”

What’s the next big thing in food trucks?

A group is now constructing an indoor food-truck court that will allow customers to walk in and order their food from trucks without having to battle the elements.

The website for Truck-side says it will be open year-round to extend the time frame for the food truck market.

The court is set to include Cheese Curds, Habaneros Taco Bar, Gweilo Asian Noodle Bar, U-Pick Fish Seafood Shack and Lil’ Eatily Pasta Bar.

Customers can pick from any one of the trucks and sit at picnic tables to enjoy the indoor truck stop.

Truck-side is set to open in the spring at 600 Windmill Road in Dartmouth.