(original post from July 17, 2014)
The Peach Truck’s Stephen K. Rose says his Nashville-based company has exactly one mission: “to provide the best peaches on the planet to as many people as humanly possible.”
From mid May through mid August, Rose, his wife Jessica and their small team do just that. In addition to providing the Georgia peaches we use to make Peach Buttermilk ice cream, the Peach Truck crew will soon be busy getting the goods to people on their Freestone Peach Tour (see schedule below).
Stephen—who founded the Peach Truck with his wife Jessica in 2012—took a moment from his jammed schedule to field a few questions about the peaches, the company, and the vintage vehicle that started it all.
Tell us about the truck that started it all—the 1964 Jeep Gladiator.
It truly was love at first sight. I really wanted to own a Jeep, and Jessica wanted to get a truck. I didn’t even know this vehicle existed. When we saw it, we knew we needed to have it. The Gladiator has a personality all of its own. The grill is so unique. It’s classic yet refined. Absolutely fell in love with it.
What did you trade for the Gladiator?
A 1995 Ford Thunderbird. Yes, there are cool Thunderbirds out there. This was not one of them. It was a two-door piece of junk that I purchased for $900 a year before. It leaked coolant in the floorboard when you tried to turn on the A/C. It overheated if it sat idle at a stoplight too long. The passenger door wouldn’t shut without you literally lifting the door as you shut it. And when the owner of the Gladiator saw it, he fell in love. He was just a dad who needed a family car. I told him what was wrong with it, and he didn’t mind, so we did an even trade. Best deal I’ve ever made.
Money is no object—what vehicles would you like to use as delivery trucks?
I would love a fleet of Jeep Gladiators. It’s not practical at all, but if we had a fleet of those running around Nashville with Georgia Peaches in the back, I’d be in heaven.
What makes the Peach Truck’s peaches special?
It all starts with the farm. Pearson Farm is a 130-year-old peach farm in Peach County, Georgia. They’ve been growing peaches on the same land for that entire time. When you talk about being an expert in your field, these guys know everything there is to know about growing peaches. So not only do they grow the perfect peaches, but we have them within 12 hours of being picked. When you purchase peaches at the grocery store, all the flavor has already been refrigerated out of it. We get a new crop of peaches every three days. There’s just no comparison.
Is our ice cream with your peaches the best peach ice cream you have tasted? (Not a loaded question at all. Not at all.)
There’s no question. The saltiness of the biscuits, combined with the sweetness of the peach jam. I dream about it most nights.
How was the initial reception to the Peach Truck in Nashville?
It was incredible. It’s one of those things where you feel like something’s amazing, but you’re not sure if everyone else will. I knew that I wanted amazing peaches in Nashville. What I didn’t know was if other people had the same desire. Most people had never tasted anything like it, and if they had, it had been years since they’d gotten their hands on peaches this amazing. It really spread like wildfire from the get-go.
Where specifically in Nashville and when did you make your first sale to the public and how many peaches did you sell the person?
It was at Imogene + Willie. It’s an incredible denim shop here in Nashville. We have been friends with them for a while, and when we decided to start doing this, we just went in the shop and asked if they minded us parking out front. They have been the most gracious hosts, and to this day we park the truck in front of Imogene + Willie every Saturday. We call it our flagship location.
What gave you the confidence to quit your jobs and do this full time?
The day we got back from our honeymoon we started selling peaches in Nashville. It was a night and weekend thing, but the response was enough that we knew there was something there. I was working a corporate job, and while I wasn’t miserable, I knew there was something more. We started dreaming about travel and freedom and all those things you feel like you would do if only you had the time. Because we lived simply, we didn’t have much overhead, so we decided to go for it in our second season. We knew we could always go and get new jobs, but this was something we’d always wonder about if we didn’t give it a try. Gratefully, it’s sustained our lives since that point.
How many people work for the Peach Truck all year?
There are four of us who work full-time, which is really seven months. We take five months off because we value freedom big time. During the summer, there are about 45 folks who sling peaches around Nashville and on our Small Town Peach Tour across Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.
What advice do you have for anyone who’s thinking about going into business for themselves?
Keep it simple. Overhead will kill your dream. Live simply at home and in your business. And make sure you test your concept before you jump in with two feet. We worked every single day at our day jobs and went and sold peaches at night. When the 4th of July came around, we had our corporate jobs off, so we had the ability to work that entire day selling peaches. If it’s worth doing, you’ll put in the time and effort.
How do you balance work and life during this time of year (or all year)?
Our summers are insane. We work 15 hour days, seven days a week. It’s not sustainable. But it doesn’t have to be, because peach season lasts 13 weeks. Once the offseason comes, we completely check out. We’ll go out and visit Jessica’s family in Seattle, we’ll take trips and see friends, we may travel out of the country. We just go and do the things that we didn’t get to do during the summer. But we love the freedom we get by sacrificing our summers. For us, it’s worth it.
What are the Peach Truck’s headquarters like? What’s the vibe? What makes the place tick?
Each of us are wildly passionate about what we do. We believe in our mission of providing the best peaches on the planet to as many people as humanly possible. At the end of the day, it’s what makes us go. None of us need someone on our back keeping us motivated to keep going. We’re all motivated by our own desire for an incredible experience with our peaches.
In addition to peach ice cream, what’s the best way to enjoy the Peach Truck’s peaches?
Just lean over a sink and bite in. There’s nothing else like it in the world.
Taste the peaches we use. Catch the Peach Truck crew during their Freestone Tour, which runs mid June through mid July throughout Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Here’s a quick look at upcoming tour dates in Ohio and Tennessee. Head here for The Peach Truck’s full tour schedule and information.
The truck that inspired the company name, a 1964 Jeep Gladiator.
The Peach Truck’s Georgia peaches.
Jessica Rose, co-owner of the Peach Truck, at the sampling station.
Stephen K. Rose, co-owner of the Peach Truck.
All photos provided by Hart & Honey.