We turned a fire truck into a coffee dock

Cork fire station officer Chris Gledhill spent the pandemic turning a fire truck into a business... now Blazing Beans is doing a roaring trade, he tells CHRIS DUNNE
We turned a fire truck into a coffee dock

FAMILY BUSINESS: Carrigaline fire officer, Chris Gledhill, with his wife Lesley Anne, daughter Chloe, 14, and three-year-old son Logan. BELOW: The front of the fire truck which is now a coffee dock based in a car park in Crosshaven

FROM horse boxes to caravans, mobile coffee docks have been springing up in all shapes and sizes since the pandemic began.

Now a Carrigaline fire station officer, Chris Gledhill, has thought outside the box and turned a fire truck into his very own custom-made coffee stop, called Blazing Beans.

Does it have all the bells and whistles?

“It’s got the sirens and the pump!” says Chris laughing. “We’ve had great interest and we have had great custom since we set up in Drake’s Pool car park in Crosshaven.

“The pitch will ease us into the business as we are new to the coffee industry,” says Chris. “After that we’ll find a busier spot to work from, but for now we’ll do just fine in the car park.”

Chris, a true professional, wants to stay local as well in case of an emergency call.

“Being close to the local fire station is important,” he says. “I want to stay on call so I can make any call-outs while working in the truck, so I need to be within a certain radius of the fire station.”

Blazing Beans is the real deal.

“I’ve been working away on it for months,” says Chris, who is married to Lesley Anne. The couple have two children, Chloe, 14 and Logan, 3.

“I had the idea well before Covid when I saw a mobile coffee truck. I just love trucks myself!”

The idea had been brewing in Chris’s mind for seven years.

“When I saw a coffee trucks around the place, I said; let’s get a fire-truck for coffee!”

Where did he come upon the magnificent machine?

“I bought the fire truck up in Co. Louth,” says Chris. “I found a proper one online. Cork County Council don’t sell older fire trucks. They impound them when they are no longer in use. Since I joined the fire service in 2014, renovating a fire-engine into a coffee truck is something I’ve always wanted to do. Now Blazing Beans is up and running.”

The pandemic presented lots of opportunity for projects to take off.

“I never had the time or the opportunity to do this until lockdown hit the world,” says Chris. “When I saw all the horse-boxes being converted, I said to Lesley Anne, it’s now or never. My wife said, let’s do it before it’s too late.”

Chris is a hands-on man.

“I am very good mechanically,” he says. “I’m always tinkering with cars and doing renovations since I was a young age. I am into DIY, learning a lot from my dad. So I was able to overhaul the fire-engine myself. I began converting it in March, working 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for five weeks straight.”

Where did he set-up his mobile garage?

“I did it all in our drive-way at home! I was full of ideas.”

Chris has a neighbour who was a former barista who put him in the know about all things coffee-related.

“He is very handy to know,” says Chris, who has a dedicated team of helpers operating the coffee business from the revamped fire-engine, including Lesley Anne, Chloe and niece, Kayla Cotter.

After the fire-truck was kitted out with the necessary coffee equipment, Chris and Co spent another few months getting it ready for road.

“Our aim was to keep the fire truck as original as possible,” says Chris, who is very familiar with fire-fighting vehicles. “So we gutted the inside where the 1800 litre water tank was and extended the roof so we could serve coffee and treats from the inside.”

The troops rowed in to help get the show on the road.

“It was great to see our friends and neighbours pitch in every so often,” says Chris. “The truck brought the community together. It was great to see. There is a whole list of people to thank; they know who they are.”

Chloe is an important part of the Blazing Beans team.

“She will be working with us during the summer months,” says Chris.

What can we sample at Blazing Beans, apart from savouring the sight of the magnificent re-ignited fire truck?

“We sell tea, coffee and soft drinks, along with a variety of sweets, slush puppy ice pops and other snacks,” says Chris.

“We are using a coffee called Fillcori Zecchini supplied by Independent Coffee Solutions. Our coffee machine is from that small company in Italy that import coffee and coffee machines. It was a good price so we thought we’d give it a try.”

How much did he invest in the mobile business all together?

“Just shy of €15,000 in total,” says Chris. “That’s including the spare parts and the generator we needed.”

Is he a coffee connoisseur himself?

“I don’t drink coffee!” laughs Chris. But he’s getting to know a lot about it.

“I am! I am getting more knowledgeable every day.”

What’s his best seller?

“The lemon drizzle cake and the brownies go down well with Americano coffee,” says Chris.

Business is brisk.

“The car park has about 30 spaces and there’s a big volume of walkers and cyclists passing by who stop off.

We’re happy and we’re managing just fine,” says Chris. “The kids are so happy with the new business and they are so happy getting a little wage. The coffee truck has brought us joy. It is a real novelty. Logan adores it!”

Chris’s son is a good PR man too.

“When somebody came for coffee the other day, Logan said ‘you buy a chocolate bar too’?”

Was Blazing Beans the first choice of name for the fire-truck?

“Cafe Inferno was suggested first,” says Chris. “My brother Matt came up with Blazing Beans. We went with it.”

Chris is dedicated to fire-fighting, and also to rescue and fire safety engineering. The vital service is available for emergency response to the community, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Will we see Blazing Beans roaming the county?

“We’re only open a matter of weeks,” says Chris. “When it goes quieter ,we might head to Kinsale. For now, we’re happy out. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

He also plans to set up a charity and give a percentage of profits towards helping those who need it after fires in the area. A donation scanner will soon be in place at the till so customers can donate.

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