The shuttle has not landed. We reported that the Space Shuttle Cafe, the newest addition to the Minute Man fleet of food trucks, would make its debut today on Broadway between Third and Fourth Streets. Perry Smith, president of Minute Man Arkansas LLC, said that a combination of the storm Wednesday and mechanical difficulties with the truck are cause for the delay.
The newest addition to the Minute Man restaurant revival, which began with a new brick and mortar location in Jacksonville last September, is a 40-foot-long food truck known as the “Space Shuttle Cafe.” The truck, which drives like a bus but is made from parts of an airplane, will launch into service this coming Friday at 11 a.m. on Broadway between Third and Fourth Streets.
The aircraft that donated its parts to the Space Shuttle Cafe flew for the U.S. military in World War II. After the war, the plane served as a commercial airliner on the East Coast. In the 1960s, the plane is rumored to have been hijacked to Havana, Cuba, before being liberated and returned to the States. The Douglas DC-3 transformed into its current design configuration in the 1990s with specifications based on a space shuttle.
The food truck is now part of a Minute Man mobile fleet, which includes the original trailer that was introduced in January of this year and a new food truck customized by a Texas food truck developer that will arrive in Arkansas in the next week or two, said Perry Smith, president of Minute Man Arkansas LLC.
Stability in the time of COVID is a challenge that Minute Man is trying to face with mobility. After a lease fell through for a new Minute Man restaurant in the former Zoe’s Kitchen location at 12900 Chenal Parkway in West Little Rock, Smith said his team took a step back and decided to focus on mobility.
“We can expand our fleet faster than we can build restaurants,” Smith said. Smith said Minute Man is planning on opening another brick and mortar in Central Arkansas in 2021. Meanwhile, with mobile trucks, Minute Man can be more flexible while adding to its bottom line.
The Minute Man team was searching for interesting, unique food trucks when they found the Space Shuttle Cafe, which Smith said had been sitting in the previous owner’s parking lot in Queens, New York, for a year. The first two shippers Smith hired cancelled. “We almost got to the point where we had to go up and drive it down ourselves, which I’m glad we didn’t do,” he said.
The truck isn’t just all flash. The kitchen is made up of mostly stainless steel and is equipped with refrigeration, a double fryer, a three head soft serve ice cream mixer, a prep table, make table, charcoal grill and a flat top grill with an exhaust system.
“We got it for a good price,” Smith said when asked about the acquisition cost. When we spoke by phone yesterday, Smith had stopped to get the truck washed and have the engine looked at because it had overheated. “I think I used to be in the restaurant business,” he joked.
In line with the mobile restaurant expansion, the company also recently launched the Minute Man Foundation. The mission of the nonprofit is to provide qualified U.S. military veterans of all branches of service access to low- to no-cost hospitality licensing and franchising opportunities with the objective of creating more veteran-owned and operated small businesses across the country. Smith said the foundation will be able to provide food trucks for veterans at a cheaper cost than buying a franchise. Another goal of the foundation is to reduce hunger and food insecurity in the state. On April 2, the Minute Man Space Shuttle Cafe is having a “Buy One Give One Mobile Food Giveaway” with North Little Rock police officer Tommy Norman, who is known for his viral community policing videos that gained him more than a million Instagram followers. Smith said Minute Man will be giving away 500 free meals and the location of the event is yet to be determined.
We’ll keep you updated on the on Space Shuttle Cafe debut. More information on the food truck schedule can be found here.