Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From Tray... To Truck?

We all have our elevator pitches, those thirty second self promos that explain who we are and what we do. Default bios, they usually contain just the facts with one or two catchphrases that define our attitude, if not our intent, when a stranger asks "So, what is it that you do?"

My own bio in the past two years explained that I was a "food-writer-turned-baker," with a reference to the recession, the new wave of San Francisco street food vendors out of which my business grew, and my self-described position in that scene as "a no cart kinda guy in a big cart kinda town."

I said it so much that it became a motto as well as a mantra. I never had a cart, a canopy or even a folding table. I sold my goods from a tray. I kept a cooler stocked with more gobs within arm's reach so that I could replenish my supply when it dwindled. Conducting sales in this manner was cheap and manageable, and as far as health department regulations were concerned all I really needed to prove was that my product was baked in a commercial facility and transported and stored at a safe temperature. Aside from shipping and delivering by the dozen, I built my business - and Gobba Gobba Hey's reputation - selling one gob at a time off of that white plastic tray. I never imagined selling any other way. Baking a handmade product was time-consuming, and unless I hired a staff, there was no way I could possibly scale up enough in production to even concern myself with selling more than a couple hundred gobs at a time. Plus I had a book to write. Between meeting my manuscript's deadline and a maintaining a busy baking schedule, my batter-gooped hands were full enough, thank you.

So I reacted with a bit of surprise and a bit of amusement when, in discussing book signing events for Gobba Gobba Hey: A Gob Cook Book, my publicist from Bloomsbury informed me that a few bookstores "were excited for [me] to bring The Truck."

Immediately I asked "Truck!? What truck? I don't have a truck..."

I didn't have to wait for an explanation, though. I surmised what had happened. In hearing that I was one of the graduates of The Streets of San Francisco's Vendor Class '09, it wasn't too much of a stretch for bookstore owners to assume I had some sort of vehicle out of which I sold my wares. Despite my attempts at telling my tale - see reference to my motto above - stories can take on a life of their own. The origins of Gobba Gobba Hey certainly had.

In an instant an idea I hadn't previously considered started to seem, well, not only possible... it started to seem appealing. I heard myself say, "But that doesn't mean that I couldn't have a truck by the time the book came out."

And there it was. With that sentence, I was on the road to putting myself, and my gobs, behind the wheel.

If you're asking wait wait wait, what about not having a staff, not being able to scale up, and all that business about being a "no cart kinda guy in a big cart kinda town," well, I have an answer. Or I hope to find an answer, here, in the coming months. My goal? To have a truck by the time my book comes out at summer's end so that I can roll into these signing events in style.

The search is underway. I have taken to excitedly scrolling through online ads, and after one or two false starts last week, I took a look at a 1991 Chevy Step Van this morning. After my trusty mechanic asked all the right questions, I took the beast for a spin. Actually, it was more like a lurch. Twenty feet of truck turned out to be more machine than I could manage.

But that's what this is all about. I hope to chronicle the process here. The plan right now is simply to have a truck for promotional purposes. Wrapped in the new book's cover art, it will be a rolling billboard from which I can distribute gobs. As for securing the proper permits to sell from a truck, well, that's something I hope to document here as well. No doubt it's a prohibitive process. Let's see. Let's go for a ride. I've already got Foghat cued up on my iPod.

A quick note of thanks to the lovely and talented Jun Belen for allowing me to use the photo at the top of this page. Also, there is now a Gobba Gobba Hey Facebook page. It's just sort of sitting there right now, but I promise it will be a little more exciting. Soon.


lmc said...

I'm ready to volunteer for the Gobba Gobba Hey truck!!

Unknown said...

Yay, congrats on your new adventure... can't wait to see the final truck..