Bonanza in Dexter
in downtown Dexter.
Thomas and his three coworkers ("Aw, just call 'em Danny, Mike, and Ed") pitched their business plan to the village council, which had almost given up hope that anyone could make the former sheriff's substation a viable restaurant. The council was considering turning the tiny gabled cottage into public restrooms, but gave Thomas a two-year lease.
Thomas's 1889 chuck wagon--which takes its name from his place on Hickman Rd. in Ann Arbor--is the original food truck. For years, Thomas and his crew have been setting up near the Dexter Cider Mill in the fall and selling ribs to people looking for something more substantial than doughnuts. They also travel around southeastern Michigan with a more theatrical version of their cowboy cooking road show, catering weddings, graduations, and other events.
The men have been play-acting the cowboy life in their spare time for so long that theater and real life seem to fuse when they approach their cast iron cook pots. Thomas has a folksy cowboy-sounding answer for everything, from how he got started (a historical reenactment out at Domino Farms: "We were cookin' our lunch in a Dutch oven hangin' on a tripod over a fire, and things just took off from there") to how their wives figure into all this ("We think chuck wagon cookin' is not for women, children, or dogs").