The new owners of the Waffle Wagon
Grant and Jan Hutchinson, standing in the driveway of their Minden home, hesitate before they talk about how they met in 1993. They look at each other in that moment of hesitation, and Grant starts quietly laughing.
“Grant was involved in the fairs,” Jan says carefully, looking at him.
“I got Jan at the Kinmount Fair,” he declares.
“He was selling his stuff at the fair,” she says.
“Toasters,” he exclaims, laughing.
“Don’t put that in, because we’re already razzed,” says Jan.
“She bought everything I had,” he continues, still laughing.
“It was a good price, so I just bought some for my family,” she says, defending herself. “Let it go. It’s always a big joke.” And the two laugh together.
Since that time at the fair, Grant and Jan have had a lot of laughs together, and have continued visiting area fairs throughout the years, together as food vendors. It’s one way to make a living, but it’s also a hobby they have a shared passion for.
So, in 1995 they ran a chip truck, and in 1996, they ran the Minden arena concession booth for about two years. In 1998, they bought a Subway restaurant, which they ran until about 2004. Then, they moved away from the food industry for Jan’s custodial position with the school board, while together bringing the Independent gas station in Haliburton to town. Grant started working for the township as a snowplow operator. But they didn’t really ever leave the food industry behind, and could be found at the Kinmount Fair helping Jan’s sister Deb at her own food booth, The Spudster, or selling corn from the cauldron they bought from Pennsylvania at the Coldwater Fair.
“This is what we like doing,” says Grant.
“This is our fun stuff,” agrees Jan. “You get to meet people.”
For the Hutchinsons, helping to keep people well-fed is in their blood.
“It’s been in both of our families forever,” says Grant. “My grandparents used to run the restaurant at the train station in Lindsay. My grandmother died when she was 99. That was 15 or so years ago. My mom was a young girl working in their restaurant. Jan’s grandparents, grandpa logged and grandma cooked for the crew. That’s Haliburton life. So I guess we get it on both sides.”
The Hutchinsons are chatting in their driveway, standing next to a self-contained waffle cart belonging to the Haliburton County Fair Board. It was at HP Propane for a service call when Grant spotted it and had to show Jan.
“It was something that, when I came home, I said to Jan, you’ve got to see this thing,” says Grant. “We jumped in the truck and went over, and I said, look at that little buggy.”
“Well, you know, every day is a new adventure,” laughs Jan. “That’s pretty much what it is. You never know what you’re going to come home to.”
“It’s not the first crazy idea I’ve had,” says Grant, noting the couple will be able to sell their pickle on a stick at the cart as well.
“We’re always looking,” he explains. “When you see something, it’s like, hmmmm. I’m always stopping and looking at something or other. I saw this at HP Propane and started tracking things down and here it is in our laneway.”
The waffle cart, to be called J and G’s Waffle Wagon when it hits the road and turns up at markets and events next spring, has been used a handful of times locally by the fair board, with good success. It opens on both sides, and comes equipped with water, sinks, freezers and lights, which can all run about 20 hours self-contained. Jan and Grant say they’ve learned about recipes online and won’t reveal their own recipe, but said they are not planning on serving just a regular waffle.
“There’s different flavours,” says Grant. “Pizza waffles, hot dog waffles. We’re looking at a hot dog waffle machine, too, actually. There’s so much you can do. Bubble waffles…you know the bubble packing material, it looks like that. You make it, you fold it up, you put ice cream in it.”
“You sort of experiment with it,” says Jan. “And then people tell you, ‘this is what we like.’ At first we thought it was going to be waffles and maple syrup. And then maybe waffles and ice cream. People have said, when they were kids, the waffle ice-cream sandwich at the CNE, that was to die for. So many people told us that, we thought, oh, well, we could do that, too.”
Now that the fair season is done, and with the couple getting closer to retirement, they’re looking at the waffle wagon to be part of their next adventure.
“We’re excited,” says Jan. “It’s just getting the time to really sink our teeth into it. We’ve just put the corn pot away for the year, and now it’s time to dabble into this. If you’re going to do it, you’ve gotta do it.”
“This is our retirement baby,” Grant says. He said this winter the pair’s hobby will be trying different waffles to see what works.
“This is going to be our fun stuff when we’re retired. It keeps you out, keeps you active, keeps you travelling. Maybe hopefully make a few dollars on the side. It’s nice to retire and do what you want to do, or do what you like doing. Doing the fair thing, and events, we really like it.”