Sep. 26—The Times-Tribune spoke to more than two dozen people from different walks of life as they confront our changing economy. Their stories will be published each day in print and at thetimes-tribune.com/news/pricedout.
ARCHBALD — Chris Coolican and his girlfriend, Renee Magnotta, planned to spend just a few years running a porketta sandwich food truck before retiring to the south.
Inflation dampened the plan.
Coolican, 54, of Greenfield Twp., retired at age 50 after 25 years as a state prison guard. He and Magnotta aim to retire entirely in five years, he said.
“So it’s paying this (truck) off, putting money aside to be able to go to live, wherever, somewhere down south,” he said. “Just buy a house and be done. … Pay cash for the house and be done and just have your normal utilities. Just live comfortably.”
That evolved after he and Magnotta started selling the sandwiches from food tents at local bazaars and festivals. The tents developed into a full-fledged food truck as the sandwiches became popular. They use a recipe developed by Magnotta’s father, Raymond Fofi, hence, the truck’s name, Ray’s Porketta.
“We’re both type-A personalities. I just can’t sit still,” Coolican said.
They had one summer with the food truck in 2019, and scheduled its event debut for the 2020 St. Patrick’s Parade. COVID-19 promptly canceled the parade.
Coolican went back to driving trucks for Amazon, then packing orders for Chewy, first in its Hanover Twp. warehouse, then in Archblad.
Relying on that, Margotta’s part-time job as a school assistant and his state pension, they made the truck payments until COVID’s shadow lifted.
They’re back in business, but inflation this year pushed gasoline and propane prices to levels unseen in the United States. Propane tanks used to cost him $9 a refill, now it’s $11. The premium gasoline his truck requires was over $3 a gallon and is now much higher, at one point skyrocketing to over $6 a gallon.
“It’s kind of everything from gas for the trucks, for the generators,” Coolican said. “Propane went up, every aspect of food, paper product, plastic product, any foam containers, you name it, every single item has gone up a minimum of 30%. Some have doubled.”
COVID-19 forced him to raise the porketta sandwich from $8 to $9. Thanks to inflation, they are now $10.
“Realistically, I can’t, I can’t go higher than that,” he said. “If these prices keep going up, how can you? … You price yourself out of business.”
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