Making a two-hour commute to a corporate job for 15 years became too much for Jamie-lee Harrison.
So Harrison decided to end her daily drive on Highway 401.
She quit her job and became the owner of a gourmet hot dog truck named The Blue Lady.
Why call it The Blue Lady?
“I had no idea what I was going to call my business,” Harrison said. “We were driving this big blue truck home, with no idea what I was serving or what I was going to call it. I decided I would honour the truck and name it after the already blue façade of the truck.”
She purchased the truck in Calgary after seeing an ad on Kijiji.
“I had no passion or desire to start a food truck,” Harrison said. “It wasn’t a lifelong dream or anything, it’s just I started looking into things I could do, and this opportunity presented itself, so I went down this avenue.”
The truck, which Harrison has owned for just over a year, was parked on the campus of Durham College (DC) and Ontario Tech University in Oshawa for three weeks, alternating with another food truck.
The Blue Lady serves gourmet-style hot dogs at costs between $6 and $8. Harrison said the feedback she received from customers was always positive.
“What I hear from a majority of people is how happy they are to have a different food option on campus,” she said. “I’m glad to be providing something different if it’s not something that they’re able to get inside.”
Harrison said the process of getting approval to serve on campus was a simple one.
“I had been trying to come here since last year because I figured with all the people around it must be a decent spot,” she said. “This is the first year we could have trucks here and so a friend of mine who owns another truck had been in touch with someone from the college. He passed along my name and here I am.”
Harrison said she tried to do business on campus last year but an exclusivity deal between the school and other food services prevented her from selling on the property.
Aramark food service director on campus, Bhavana Gupta, said the schools are always trying to add multiple dining options for students.
“Given the diversity of the population, whether staff, faculty or students, we want to ensure to have concepts that cater to a variety of preferences and dietary needs as well as trends in food service,” Gupta said.
Gupta added students can have input into their dining options around campus.
“We have our bi-annual Dining Styles Survey running right now,” Gupta said, adding menu options are decided in conjunction with sales and survey results. “Until Oct. 26, those who take the survey will be entered into a draw for one of three $50 Visa gift cards or a grand prize of a $150 Visa gift card.”
Harrison added she is thankful for the opportunity to serve on campus because it forced her out of her shy shell.
“Here I get to meet students that I don’t normally get to meet,” Harrison said. “I get to talk to them about their day and the courses they are taking – which is super interesting.”
Warmer days are beginning to be less and less, so Harrison said her availability to serve has gone down.
“Unfortunately, me personally I can’t be here in the winter because all of my pipes freeze,” she said. “I want to come back in the spring and it feels like I am wanted back.”
Harrison said she was very happy with the time she spent serving on campus.
“I want to say thank you to all the students and even faculty who have come to see me,” she said. “Thank you for making me feel welcome and for visiting again and again.”