Ziggy Peelgood’s, the iconic and beloved St. John’s chip truck business, is putting down roots.
Renovations are underway on Ropewalk Lane to convert a former office space in Ropewalk Plaza into a new production facility and storefront.
“When we got involved with the company, we were trying to get our heads around it,” says Todd Hickey, who partnered with Tony Gilbert to purchase the company from Bev Green — wife of the original owner, John Hrabowsky — about six years ago.
“There were a lot of festivals and the trucks needed upgrading, so we’ve been spending money on that side of it, purchasing new trucks and renovating other trucks, and now’s the time to go in a different direction.”
The storefront — which Hickey says will offer the same famous french fries along with some new spud options like poutine and baked potatoes — is the first standalone Ziggy Peelgood’s location in St. John’s in more than 25 years.
Before it was a wildly popular chip truck business, Ziggy’s had a home at 61 Harvey Rd. from 1986 until 1992 when it, and numerous other establishments in the area, were destroyed by fire. It was thereafter that Hrabowsky turned it into a mobile vending unit business.
Nowadays, Hickey and Gilbert operate three trucks in St. John’s during peak season, but only the truck at the corner of George Street and Adelaide Street serves up the famous fries year-round. Water Street and Churchill Square locations are open seasonally, and the company also offers truck rentals for weddings, sporting events, concerts and other occasions.
“When I got involved in it, I didn’t know what to expect, but within a very short period of time I could tell it was a great brand and it had great recognition and people enjoy it,” Hickey says.
Even though Ziggy’s name is synonymous with food trucks, Hickey is confident they’ll be able to make a go of it with a bricks-and-mortar operation. The wholesale component of the business supplies roughly 20 eating establishments in the city — including Mile One Centre — with fries. The storefront, he says, is just gravy.
The wholesale work is currently taking place about an hour outside of town at a facility in tiny O’Donnell’s in St. Mary’s Bay where, Hickey says, they have four full-time and four part-time employees who blanch and chop fries.
“Six days a week we’ve got a vanload of fries coming into the city,” he says, noting that the load is doubled when there are events at Mile One.
Hickey says the employees in St. Mary’s Bay have been offered the opportunity to work at the new facility in St. John’s.
The expansion in St. John’s isn’t a half-baked idea, either. Last year, Hickey and Gilbert opened a franchise in Burin in partnership with the local Extreme Pita franchise, and they’re in the process of partnering with Old Town Pizzeria to begin offering fries in three of its metro locations. What’s more, Hickey is adding Ziggy’s products to the menu of his Burrito Jax location in Mount Pearl.
“We’re aggressively expanding at the moment.”
Hickey hopes to have the Ropewalk Lane location up and running by mid-to-late March.