By Jennifer Pund
When Peg Wittmann’s 25-foot bright-yellow and brown food truck is parked at events, it can’t be missed. Nor should it be. Her popular Sunshine Express cuisine has allowed her to build a following in the Clear Creek County area that she is now bringing to her new brick-and-mortar location in Idaho Springs. Following her three-year plan, the café and mobile unit offer the same menu, same procedures and same employees her customers know and trust.
In February of 2012, Wittmann purchased the custom-made food truck from a man in Oklahoma. He had built it for his wife who wanted something different it once it was complete. Wittmann couldn’t have been happier. “We’re very glad she did. He built her a new truck, and we got this one,” she said. “We started taking it out for business that same March.”
Advised by her father—a master chef from Europe—not to follow in his footsteps, Wittmann pursued her talent for technology. After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, she studied in an MBA program and before turning 30, was promoted to VP of Technology at her job.
“But I just loved everything about food,”she said. “I was an executive for a decade, I had done it. So, I got my degree from a culinary college.”
She studied at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder and the Culinary School of the Rockies, including a stint in Provence, France. “Once I had spent several years in all aspects of the industry, I was ready to start this business,” she said. Seeking interaction with her customers, Wittmann learned about the popularity of food trucks and how it was perfect for restaurant entrepreneurs. “The mobile café was also within reach, financially,” she said.
State law requires food trucks prepare food in a commercial kitchen, so Wittman worked with the now-closed Mangia! Restaurant in Idaho Springs and parked the truck at the Visitor Center in Georgetown.
She knew she wanted to open a breakfast and lunch café, so was always searching for the perfect location. “None of the existing food establishments were suited for the truck,” she said. “When I was ready to build my own commissary, and not have to pay rent anymore, this building was far more than we intended, but we went with it.”
Renovating the former The Stuff Store building in Idaho Springs into a commercial kitchen and café was a learning experience for Wittmann. It came in the form of people taking advantage of her. “The city didn’t put up any obstacles for me,” she said. “We just seemed to find contractors who were either con-artists or just didn’t want to show up.”
Despite the setbacks, Sunshine Express now has a permanent home. Wittmann serves the same menu as on the truck, but with much more room that also includes a deck on the creek. “We are known for cooking the majority of our food from scratch,” she said. “We get quality products from our vendors and keep our prices reasonable while getting your food to you quickly.”
Following the same style of the truck, all items are sold separately so customers can make their own combinations. “We don’t want to sell you a huge plate of food with items you didn’t want,” Wittmann explained. Special requests are always welcome. “Just like we’ve done on the food truck all these years, if we have the ingredients, we’ll gladly make your item.”
Stop in for the maple sausage gravy with eggs, hash browns and light cheese, or a breakfast burrito when on the go. Coffee and espresso drinks are available all day. For lunch, try the third-pound black Angus cheeseburger, fried chicken or the brats and hotdogs fresh from her butcher in Castle Rock. Lean grilled chicken or one of many deli wraps are available for lighter appetites. There are also options from personal pizzas to New York Deli items, Texas-style chili to crêpes. Wittmann says, “You can come to the café everyday for either a small snack or a full meal, stay and chat or get back on the road, we are happy you’ve stopped in and look forward to seeing you again.”
Sunshine Express is located at 1856 Colorado Blvd. in Idaho Springs. Visit sunshineexpressco.com for more information.
Originally published int he April 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly