FREDERICTON – At Huddle, we love writing about food businesses in New Brunswick, and we know our audiences like reading about them too.
This week, we visit Big John’s Spiral Potatoes and chat with owner Dean Wood, who told us the story of the real-life Big John, his uncle.
How did this get started?
Dean: Big John was my uncle, John Wood. He and my aunt started this business. It was incorporated in September 2000, and I know they operated it as a sole proprietorship a few years prior to that. With the idea on the plate, my uncle came up with something along the way and when he passed away a few years ago we wanted to keep it in the family so my wife and I purchased the business to keep it going.
Do you know why he decided to go for spiral potatoes?
Dean: He had worked a career with NB Power and at that point they offered him a buyout to retire early, so he decided to take that as a fairly young man, he was in his forties, maybe fifty. So he took that, and he was on vacation in Florida or somewhere at one point, and he saw somebody doing something similar. It’s when he looked at it that he thought ‘you know what? That looks like something I could probably adapt to New Brunswick.’ I think that’s where he came up with the idea, made some changes to what was happening down there, and brought it up here. He was the first person in New Brunswick to do that sort of thing [spiral potatoes]. There’s a lot of people since that have picked up on it and do it as well, but guess we’re the originals.
How long has Big John’s been in business?
Dean: It was officially incorporated in September 2000, and prior to that I know that he worked at it for I’d say for three of four years before that as well as a proprietorship. It’s been close to 25 years, I guess.
That’s a long time!
Dean: Yes, it is. A lot of potatoes.
How would you describe what you serve? Where did the inspiration come from?
Dean: Basically what you’re getting from us is fresh potato chips. They’re nice and hot and a lot of people call them curly fries, because they’re sort of curled when they’re cut, but we serve before you that fresh cut of potato chip.[When] Big John first started, he’d go to events, to festivals, and events for Canada Day, he had a pop-up awning with a deep fryer under it that he had set up there, and as he grew his business he put it into the trailer that we have now.
Do you know for how long Big John’s has been a food truck?
Dean: The trailer was built in 2008, so it’s been in the same way we have it now since 2008.
What was it about this sort of business that made you want to be involved?
Dean: Well, I helped John out for years and as my wife had, and my cousins and my brother. Whenever he needed help we all just were there for him, it’s fun. So, I saw an opportunity to spend my summers traveling around New Brunswick, meeting and talking to people I don’t know, and I just really enjoy that. That’s probably what throws me to step up and buy the business when John passed away. It’s a fun way to make a living.
When did John pass away, exactly?
Dean: It was three years ago, in July.
I’m guessing the food truck is open for the summer and the fall. Could you give me a specific time frame?
Dean: Our first event was probably in the second week of May. And our final event is scheduled for October 26. So we’re going from May till the end of October.
What do you do during the wintertime?
Dean: I also work at a nursing home. So, in the summer I work here full-time and in the summertime, I work there part-time.
Do you find people respond well to the food truck on this area?
Dean: Oh, absolutely. Fredericton is probably our home base, we live in New Maryland and I grew up in Nashwaaksis, so a lot of people know us, and people respond very well to us. We’ll go to Woodstock or we’ll be in Woodstock for a whole weekend or a couple weeks, and we’ve had a great, great response up there as well. Now last summer, we went from Saint Andre down to Dieppe, Moncton, Miramichi, just all over the province. We’re the same this summer just again and people are friendly wherever we are. It’s a great time.
What are your plans for the future?
Dean: Our plans for the future is to keep doing what we’re doing, keep looking for great events and keep having fun. That’s really what our plan is.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dean: It’s great being your own boss. When you’re an entrepreneur and you’re doing things, there’s a lot of responsibilities that you have to look after, there’s a lot of pressures on you. When you find a business that you enjoy, all those pressures seem to go away, even if they are still there, if you know what I mean? They don’t weigh you down as much. If you find a job that makes you happy, that’s just a great way to spend your life.