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Naples Daily News

Butcher’s Son truck grows from owner’s foodie roots

Making a living from making food is essentially inherent to Jon Wagner. Food service is deep rooted in the co-owner of The Butcher’s Son food truck, which launched a few months ago in Naples. “I grew up in the food business, the food industry, so I’ve always kind of been around food my whole life,” Wagner said. Wagner, 29, was only about 5 or 6 when his mother married Ralph C. Stayer, then CEO of Johnsonville Sausage, a Wisconsin-based company Stayer’s parents founded in 1945. The “Sausage King” helped raise Jon, giving him a firsthand taste of Johnsonville’s international success. Stayer’s parents, Ralph F. and Alice Stayer, retired to Naples and spent their final days here. Following in his parents’ footsteps, Ralph C. Stayer also retired to Naples, while his wife, Shelly, launched Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes and Johnsonville Sausage Marketplace stores here. Now, five years after co-founding Two Trucks LLC in Dallas, the next generation of food entrepreneurs — the butcher’s son — is in Naples.

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The Butcher’s Son food truck, co-owned by Jon Wagner of Naples, serves hot dogs, brats and veggie sandwiches Monday to golfers during Caddy Appreciation Day at The Old Collier Golf Club in North Naples. The truck won the People’s Choice Award Saturday at Food Truck Wars in Fort Myers

“I live here now,” Wagner said. “I moved down here when we brought the truck down here.” He’s especially interested to see how his budding food truck business can perform in another foodie market. If winning last weekend’s People’s Choice Award at the first Food Truck Wars in Fort Myers is any indication, Wagner may be onto something. His business model is working. “It’s been reassuring knowing that the five years we spent building this works in different places,” he said. In a field of about 40 trucks on Saturday, The Butcher’s Son served about 300 people. The overcapacity crowd was impressive when compared to similar events in bigger cities his food trucks have participated in, Wagner said. “We ran out of slider bread with 40 minutes left,” he said. In Dallas, unique sliders are the truck’s top-selling items hands down, accounting for about 30 percent of total sales. But, in Southwest Florida, the truck usually sells more quesadillas and sandwiches, rather than sliders. Because so many trucks were at Top Rocker Field at Six Bends Harley-Davidson, more patrons wanted sliders so that they could sample more items, Wagner said. “Sliders provide variety without a full sandwich,” he said.

The Butcher’s Son truck offers six sliders for $4 each or $11.74 for a triple combo, five sandwiches from $8.10 to $8.75, two quesadillas for $8.15, and other items such as Voo Doo Tots—pieces of deep fried, grated potato topped with braised beef, sautéed onions, curry wurst sauce and curry powder. Of the half dozen creative sliders on brioche rolls offered by The Butcher’s Son, two are especially popular: Southern Hospitality, which features a buttermilk fried chicken tenderloin, garlic potato spread and white country gravy; and The Mac-N Beefy, made with braised beef, a baked macaroni and- cheese square, barbecue sauce and cheddar. The third most popular slider—The Dead Elvis— is a dessert slider featuring Nutella, peanut butter and bacon. “You either love it or you hate it,” Wagner said. “We’ve had that item on our truck for a while. People either say that sounds terrible, or that sounds amazing. It all depends on your preference.”

Four items on the truck’s menu feature Johnsonville sausages. Johnsonville’s Famous Double Brat sandwich includes two beers immersed bratwurst, sauerkraut, fresh onion and spicy mustard on a brioche bun. Another sandwich, as well as a slider and a quesadilla, build upon the company’s chipotle Monterey Jack chicken sausage. Wagner co-founded Two Trucks in 2011 with Dain Pool, whose father owns Pool’s Restaurant Group, which operates Gandolfo’s New York Delicatessen. While getting his master’s degree in business from DePaul University in Chicago, Wagner was introduced to the Pools through mutual friends of his parents. “We sat down and discussed our thoughts and goals and what we wanted to accomplish. They were pretty similar and we got along pretty well, so we decided to partner and start food trucks,” he said. They launched the business in Dallas because there weren’t many food trucks there already, the weather is nice most of the year, and the Pools were originally from there and still had family and ties, Wagner said. “We have a total of six trucks with four different concepts,” he said. “Our goal is to continue to grow and add trucks and potentially add brands, as well.”

Their food truck brands now include What’s the Scoop ice cream, Texas Burrito Co.’s high-end burritos, and Gandolfo’s Deli, which sells traditional Reuben and pastrami sandwiches on rye with unique twists. “What’s great about our trucks, no matter what the menu we have or what we do, there’s some sort of item for everyone,” Wagner said. “We do offer something for everyone, even kids for that matter.” The Butcher’s Son truck in Naples started in December catering private events, such as Monday’s Caddy Appreciation Day at Old Collier Golf Club in North Naples. The truck, stocked with food prepped by its five full-time employees at Your Pro Kitchen off Old 41 Road in North Naples, started showing up at public events in January, and more is yet to come, Wagner said “Basically, I could see adding another concept here,” he said. “We have to take it one step at a time and get Butcher’s Son to where it has to be before bringing the next brand down here. The goal is to get there as soon as possible. I’d love to see another truck here this year yet. The demand is going to dictate when we are going to bring another truck here.” For now, The Butcher’s Son will roll to a lot of private events at corporate offices, with public appearances such as festivals and concerts announced on its Facebook page or a weekly schedule on its website, thebutchersson.com.

Businesses seeking to hire the local catering vehicle also can contact them through information online. “We are trying to find places to go. It may be a one-time thing,” Wagner said, noting they’ll visit just a few buildings weekly and perhaps breweries and other places on the weekend. In my opinion, you can’t be going to the same place very, very often because you almost become a restaurant then and takeaway from the uniqueness of a food truck.”

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