Bristol octogenarian enters a rig in the food truck fleet

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Good taste doesn't take early retirement

Bristol octogenarian enters a rig in the food truck fleet

By Christy Nadalin
CNadalin@EastBayNewspapers.com

Gordon Stone likes to stay busy. A resident of Bristol's North Farm, Stone (who will turn 87 at his next birthday) is up and at his office early every morning. A longtime fixture of the local jewelry industry, Stone left his job with Balfour, where he was an Executive Vice President, in the early 1970's when the company split up. These days he designs jewelry — though resists the label "jewelry designer" — giving the lions share of the credit to a colleague. "I play at it," he says. "I sketch ideas in pencil, and she very much improves on my ideas."

He's out of the office by 1 p.m., but he's not heading home for a nap. "My wife wouldn't let me retire," he laughs, acknowledging he's been blessed with more than his fair share of energy. He's not hitting the links either. Most days, and weekends too, Stone turns his attention to his new start-up, which happens to be in food service — an industry known for exhausting hours and tight margins.

But Stone doesn't seem to mind — and he's hired a right-hand man to manage the launch of The Road Runner, his new food truck. Mike Sandoval is a recent graduate of Johnson & Wales who spent 12 years cooking in the army. A native of the mountains of northern New Mexico, Sandoval is bringing a decidedly New Mexican bent to The Road Runner, including fresh salsa, chile (both red and green — "Red or green is actually the official New Mexico state question," says Sandoval), fry bread (similar to fried dough), and tacos.

The Road Runner is actually a food trailer — a plus that allows it to fit into tighter spots than the typical food truck — and not be at the mercy of mechanics, since it can be hooked up to any truck with a trailer hitch strong enough to pull it. Sandoval and Stone put it through its paces for the first time last weekend, volunteering at a youth baseball championship in Duxbury, Mass. They were very pleased with the result of their shakedown cruise.

While the menu will showcase Sandoval's skill set nicely, it's a departure from how Stone initially became interested in the business. As a longtime resident (and board president) at North Farm, Stone was the go-to guy when it came to community lobster events. He enjoyed preparing lobster for his friends and neighbors so much, he thought he'd like to do more of that — but then his Newport lobster source shut down their wholesale business, forcing Stone to look elsewhere for lobster. He found another great source, fresh off the boat in New Bedford, around the same time he noticed that food trucks had exploded in popularity.

When Stone and Sandoval originally got together, introduced through the Johnson and Wales entrepreneurship program and Hope & Main, Warren's food business incubator, Stone was looking to market an old family chutney recipe. That has been accomplished (they are in the distribution phase now), and the pair moved on to taking Stone's lobster cookery to the next level.

"I can't say enough about Hope & Main," said Stone. "I had no commercial culinary experience, and they have all been so focused on helping me with this industry."

While the pair has discovered that working with lobster poses significant challenges, including rules, regulations, refrigeration, and relative shelf life of the product, they are currently working to perfect their techniques to bring fusion products — including lightly friend lobster tacos — to The Road Runner.

Stone's enthusiasm and admiration for his head chef is apparent, as he talks about the quality and authenticity of Sandoval's creations. "He's bringing a little bit of the Southwest to the Northeast."

The Road Runner has been about two years in the making, and Stone and Sandoval are ready to enjoy the fruits of their labor with the launch of the summer season. Sandoval's brother is moving here from New Mexico to help out, and The Road Runner's dance card is filling up with events. One place you will certainly be able to find them will be at Hope & Main's Schoolyard Market, every Sunday from June 18 through October 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; they are also hoping to secure a spot at the Fourth of July concert series at Independence Park in Bristol.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.