It was nearly 14 years ago. Jonathan Gibbons was sitting in front of his classic Macintosh something or other. He was struggling to type out a term paper for his English class. It was the biggest obstacle standing between him and a bachelor’s degree.
It was not that Gibbons was incapable of writing the paper. If anything, he was extremely intelligent, dedicated, and driven. His just did not have the drive to follow the road most traveled.
“You have to start somewhere,” I would tell him about the prospect of finding his calling. “Sometimes, that means you have to start at the bottom and work your way up the corporate ladder.”
It was the worst advice I had given anyone since I told my gay neighbor in grade school what he needed to do pick up girls.
Gibbons eventually finished the paper, graduated from college, and found himself working his way around various culinary establishments in Chicago.
It was here that he felt most at home.
Watching Jon work in a restaurant was like watching him discuss sports statistics. It was second nature to him.
He came up with creative ways to up-sell desserts, like adding a shot of Nocello to the freezer-burned tartufo served at the mid-level restaurant he worked at in college.
He invented drinks when he worked behind the bar, offered spot-on beverage and food pairings, and would even generate unique recipes that were equal parts delicious, easy, and profitable.
When Gibbons left Chicago, he moved around a bit, landing in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Colorado, further refining his palate with each new location.
Eventually, he found himself back in his home state of Connecticut, deciding to give the 9-to-5 world a shot.
“You have to start somewhere,” I continued to urge him. Little did I realize that he had already began his career path years ago while still in college.
In 2012, using some money borrowed from a relative and whatever savings he had, Gibbons bought a truck and had it customized to open the business he was destined to own. After nearly six months of preparation, he unleashed Fryborg on the unsuspecting New England public.
What if the food truck business was a fad? Would it be sustainable to sell a deep fried side dish as his primary commodity? Could anyone take the campy name seriously?
None of these questions bothered Jon, who got right to work, quickly putting in 10-12 hours per day up to seven days per week to get his business off the ground.
So, what is Fryborg, exactly?
“We’re a french fry truck, so we specialize in hand-cut fries with different dipping sauces and toppings,” said Gibbons. “We also offer a variety of grilled sandwiches as well, which are popular with the lunch crowd. At festivals, however, french fries are without question the biggest sellers.”
It did not take long before Yale’s press noticed him and he began picking up thousands of followers and likes on social media. By the end of his first full year in business, Fryborg had already been voted the Best Fries in New Haven, CT. (OK, second best because some people actually voted for Five Guys. Really, people?)
Gibbons works tirelessly to find local, seasonal ingredients for use in his creative recipes. He also searches hard to discover independent soft drinks to sell on his truck and loves coming up with holiday specials. During any down time, he tries to promote his business online.
Gibbons also uses social media to express his sense of humor.
Bam. Nailed it.
Since the business opened in 2012, Fryborg operates year round, with the bulk of the work coming during the three more manageable seasons and the majority of the revenue being generated at festivals and privately catered affairs.
Time is certainly not a luxury that Gibbons has. However, he does have glowing reviews, plenty of positive press, and an undying passion for what he does.
That passion shows in the quality of the products he put out, which goes well beyond a simple plate of fries.
“During the winter I keep it basic,” he said. “I stick with about 8-10 menu items that are quick and easy to prepare. The rest of the year I like to keep rotating new specials in and out on a weekly basis.”
The process of coming up with inventive ideas on top of running such a demanding business can be tiring. That is why Gibbons offers the following advice for new, independent business owners:
“The first goal should always to get to a point where you can hire people to run the part of the business that is least enjoyable for you, so you can focus on the part you like the most. This will allow your business to grow.”
He has gotten to that spot now and is eyeing up his first brick and mortar store as well as possibly another food truck. It might not be long before Fryborg comes to a location near you. After all, his website does claim that resistance is futile.