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A Caboose on the Loose in Elmira

Business is booming for Elmira’s newest chip wagon.

Previously operated out of Alma, the Loose Caboose has set up camp for the summer on Church Street West where Premier Equipment used to be, under new ownership.

EDSS student Kelly Schwindt and three of her friends will be operating it together this summer, along with another woman they’ve hired.

Kelly explains she wanted to get a different summer job this year and her neighbour had the Loose Caboose, so she was hoping to work for her. But Kelly found out she was planning to sell it instead.

Her dad, Eric Schwindt, bought the chip wagon so that Kelly and her friends can learn how to manage a business, and also to offer locals another eatery option.

They opened the afternoon of June 24 and if the line-up and the full picnic tables were any indication, they’ll be busy this summer.

“It was crazy,” Kelly said.

Eric added, “Between five of us in there, all we could do was make food. The people just kept on coming. It was great.”

They’re making the typical fare you’d expect from a chip wagon: fries, burgers, onion rings, poutine, and ice cream. They’re also going to have fish Fridays, where they will sell hand battered fish and chips.

“The food’s been good. Lots of people have been liking it,” Kelly said.

Eric’s in hog farming, so he’ll supply the pork. They’ve got a neighbour who grows potatoes, which they’ll use for the fries.

The Loose Caboose was previously owned by Shelley Hinsperger and operated out of Alma for about six years. He says the location didn’t work there anymore and this one just seemed to fit.

“The zoning for this property is right for it, it wasn’t a problem. It’s just the $1,100 permit to open up, which is hard for Kelly to swallow,” Eric said.

Eric notes the local public health inspection office was helpful in making sure everything was up to snuff so they could open.

Elmira resident Kelly Schwindt and friends are running the Loose Caboose in Elmira this summer, open every day except Mondays.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Elmira resident Kelly Schwindt and friends are running the Loose Caboose in Elmira this summer, open every day except Mondays. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
He says the Church Street West location suits them because the zoning is right, it’s a high traffic area in and out of Elmira and there’s lots of parking. They’re hoping to come back to the same spot next summer too, but if it’s not available they’ll find another spot.

“We thought about it last summer in generic terms and then it was probably 10 days where it was all of a sudden, okay if we’re going to do it, it’s got to happen. We put it together, kind of a last minute thing. They had to move out of Alma so they asked if they could store it at our place. Well storing it in my backyard isn’t a great idea, so may as well be useful,” Eric said.

They’re going to be open full-time until the end of August and then weekends in September.

The previous owner is helping them out to start, teaching them how to do all the cooking.

Eric’s brother and sister operated a fry wagon when they were in university, and he says he stayed out of it then, but he’s in the thick of it now.

They just accept cash right now but they expect to have their debit machine up and running by the weekend.

“Elmira’s growing so there’s demand for all kinds of retail and food operations, so I thought we could fill a niche. The location’s right, and most of all it gives the kids a chance to learn about running a business,” Eric said.

They’re open Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Church Street West.

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