The owners of a new food truck in Cortez hope to turn their business into a gathering place for the whole town.
In November Chris and Laurie Hutton started parking the Blue Pepper food truck – a repurposed school bus–on their property on 1002 E. Empire St. Hoping to take advantage of increased development in the area, including the new Osprey Packs headquarters across the street, they serve tacos and sandwiches made from applewood-smoked meat prepared on a grill outside the truck. In January the city council approved a rezoning of the couple’s land that could allow them to expand their business by adding a farmers market.
The Huttons have both worked in the food industry for about 30 years, they said. After moving to Cortez in 2015 to be closer to family, they saw a vacant lot on Empire Street as an opportunity to continue their food careers.
“Nothing’s been done with this property for over 20 years, so we just think it’s a great location,” Chris Hutton said. “A lot of the city’s heartbeat, a lot of it’s moving this way, and so we want to be part of that.”
They started the process last summer by setting up a booth to sell produce from their own farm and those of a few friends. The food truck is the next step in their plan for the property, which they eventually hope will become a neighborhood hangout.
The Huttons said they try to use as much locally produced food as possible in Blue Pepper’s menu. In addition to what they grow on their own farm, Montezuma County producers like Berto Farms and Summit Roots have contributed to the truck, and Chris Hutton said he uses local applewood to prepare all the meat he serves. He said the wood creates a unique flavor, and it is abundant in Montezuma County.
As spring approaches, the Huttons hope to bring other vendors to their corner. They are looking for local growers to help create a new farmers market on the property.
“We want to promote as much of the local farmers as we can,” Laurie Hutton said. “We want to have more of that atmosphere, where we could have another place, or venue, for local people trying to sell what they create.”
Both the Huttons are artists as well as cooks. In fact, the name “Blue Pepper” came from a painting Chris Hutton made for a friend. They said they hope to attract artistic vendors as well as farmers. They hope to host a market at least one day a week once the growing season starts.
For now, they said, business has been “up and down,” largely depending on the weather, but they often have lines of customers from Osprey and other nearby businesses during the lunch hour. Right now the truck is open from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the Huttons plan to expand both their hours and their menu in the spring.
Farther down the road, the couple hope to build a permanent greenhouse, and possibly a coffee shop, on their land. But for now, they said they’re focusing on building a reputation as a good place to eat and hang out.