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  • Around Town

    'I'll take a supreme, please'

    By Aaron Smith

    Paul Wildeck's first customer some 18 years ago gave him confidence that his new business venture would last.

    "It was an immediate hit," he says of the familiar yellow and orange Burrito Buggy that has held its turf at Court and Union streets since 1984. "Our first customer came back 15 minutes later, and our business doubled in the first week."

     

    Burrito Buggy

     

    Manager Cindy Trueman and owner Paul Wildeck know the Burrito Buggy has become something of an icon for Ohio University students and alumni.

    Wildeck, AB '81 and MA '84, decided Athens was ready for Mexican fare and started the food buggy with friend Mark Bernards, who since has moved on to run Athens' Tomatillos Restaurant.

    Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2:30 or 3 in the morning, the buggy serves about 200 customers a day and more than 2,000 during Athens' annual Halloween festivities. Patrons' favorite fare: beef burritos.

    "I never dreamed of popularity, but it has gotten to that," Wildeck says. "I heard about a guy who got pulled over, and when the state trooper from Indiana saw that he was from Athens, he asked if the Burrito Buggy was still there."

    Taste and convenience serve as the buggy's magnetic force. Like other patrons, Aaron Hollar, BSED '95, a math teacher and a basketball coach at West Liberty-Salem High School in Ohio's Champaign County, has his favorite burrito.

    "It was always a beef supreme, and it was always after 2 a.m. I don't think I ever had one before that time of night," he says. "Every year, my college roommates and I get together for a weekend in Athens, and every year we make a point to hit the Burrito Buggy for old times' sake. The only difference between now and then is that we eat them earlier because we can't hang out like we used to."

    Today's students flock to the buggy with as much enthusiasm as their predecessors. And for some, the buggy is a point of pride.

    "No other school has the Burrito Buggy, and everyone seems to know about it," says Dan Gillespie, a junior majoring in psychology. "I have friends at Kent State and Miami, and every time they come down to visit we have to go to the Burrito Buggy."

    Although Wildeck operates the business side of the buggy, the familiar face behind the window is that of manager Cindy Trueman. Wildeck says she's largely responsible for the buggy's success. "Cindy's been there almost from the start," he says. "Her personality is a big part of the buggy, and without her, we never would have been this popular and successful. She deserves a lot of the credit."

    Wildeck sees the buggy as his small contribution to the culture of Athens.

    "Sometimes I don't realize just how long I've been here," he says. "But pretty soon, the children of my first customers will start coming to the Burrito Buggy."

    Aaron Smith, BSJ '02, is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.