A fire engine maneuvering around a slow-poke antique vehicle? Look again: That was the first-ever known parade of pizza trucks.
Doug Coffin’s Big Green Pizza Truck, otherwise known as a 1940s International Harvester KB5 green and wood beauty equipped with nifty wood-burning oven, led the parade and and culinary pow-wow at Sports Haven Wednesday afternoon to mark the 10th anniversary of his rapidly growing New Haven business and the success of the idea across the state and country.
Coffin said modestly that when he began a decade a go, there already were vehicles, including old trucks with rigged up ovens, turning out pizza at county fairs.
“My contribution was to mount a wood-fired oven on an antique truck and to do it as catering, ” he said.
He estimated there are 15 businesses, with a range of vehicles in the state.
On Wednesday a dozen trucks lined up, including Sal Ajro’s 1975 reconfigured fire truck, formerly of the Cape Elizabeth, Maine, fire department. Carrying the concept or metaphor of wood-fired pizza a step further, Ajro purchased the vehicle for $15,000 four years ago when his Verona/Southington pizza business fell on hard times due to the economy.
He said he was sitting in his business drinking a glass of merlot with a friend and thinking about shifting to a vending pizza business, when a fire truck went by. Bingo! And eureka. Now Ajro has four trucks, and a wildly growing business.
“I don’t want to bring too many,” to the pow-wow, he said. He said kids play with the sirens and fire gauges. “It’s a concept a lot of kids love.”
Coffin’s business has also expanded exponentially. He said he bought his first vehicle as a “carcass” for $5,000. Then mounting the oven, and the sink, along with, of course, the espresso maker began to add up.
“I stopped counting when the the cost went above $60,000.”
From such beginnings, Coffin’s business now employs 30 people and grosses $1 million in pizza sales, with one thousand pizza parties a year.
They are purveyed from four International Harvesters, of 1946, 1947, 1948, and 1949 vintage, with one more such vehicle on the way.
He said he had looked to refit trucks from other decades but “these seem to have a timeless character.”
After the trucks formed up at Sports Haven, they honked and sizzled, or made other pizza-truck appropriate noises, and promenaded down to Long Wharf, where they drove down I—95 to Milford.
The plan was to return to Sports Haven by 3 p.m., where Coffin said he expected anywhere from 300 to 1,000 folks to partake of free samples and then slices from all the trucks.