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Happy Fryday: New food truck defies winter, pandemic

Published on

Cathy Dobson

The first Saturday Jumbo Fries opened, owner Ethnee Roodt says she prepared a staggering 170 pounds of French fries.

They sold out.

“We also ran out of propane and had to close early. We called it ‘fry-mageddon’,” jokes husband Martin Roodt.

The Roodts and Jumbo Fries co-owners Preet and Paula Singh say they underestimated the popularity of a new fry truck in the middle of winter and a pandemic.

They opened in mid-January when few fry trucks operate in Sarnia because it was a good time for the new business to get ready for the busy summer season, said Martin Roodt.

He and Ethnee moved to Sarnia six years ago. He works in the oil and gas sector and she studied Early Childhood Education at Lambton College.

The couple was hoping to open a new daycare centre at 1801 Blackwell Rd. where the Singhs operate P&K Hair & Esthetics.

But then COVID-19 hit, forcing them to change directions.

“It all started with a coffee with Preet and Paula,” said Ethnee. “I popped in for a trim and we got to talking.

“My dream has always been to open my own daycare but that has to be on the backburner now. We began talking about the fact Bright’s Grove doesn’t have many fry trucks.

“Preet is a networker and pretty soon he found this truck in St. Thomas.”

The truck had operated for years as Jumbo Fries, in honour of the famed circus elephant that died on a railway track in St. Thomas in 1885.

“I love history and thought we should keep the name in Jumbo’s memory,” said Ethnee.

The truck arrived in Sarnia in excellent shape, she said. “It just needed a really good scrub down.”

It took about six months for the four partners to prepare for the opening and for Ethnee to earn her food handlers certificate and study COVID-19 protocols.

“I am a foodie and when we moved to Ontario food retail was the only work I could find,” she said.  “I really love its fast pace and I understand the importance of quality and customer service.”

Jumbo Fries sells fresh cut fries for $4 (mini); $7 (regular) and $8.85 (jumbo). Sweet potato fries cost $7.  Other popular items include spring rolls (.75) and samosas ($1.50). There are specials too like layered poutine.

Prices are competitive because Jumbo Fries is operating on land owned by the Singhs, adjacent to their hair salon.

Other fry trucks must contend with the high cost of leasing property but Jumbo Fries doesn’t, said Martin.

“We have regulars already that I know by name,” Ethnee said. “The first weeks have been incredible. We’ve increased our sales every day we’ve been open.”

Jumbo Fries is open Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (winter hours) and is located at the corner of Blackwell Road and Blackwell Sideroad.

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