by Oliver Tanner…
This year started out very exciting. I was already happy to be running The Manly Store, and an opportunity came up for me to purchase a food truck and expand my business. Expanding my business wasn’t what had really gotten me excited, though. What really had me excited was that I finally had the opportunity in front of me to do what I have been wanting to do and working towards for five years.
You see, while I enjoy running my little gun and sporting goods store, my heart is really in food. I graduated from the Art Institute of California – Sacramento with a Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Management in 2013 but my love affair with food goes way further back than that.
I first determined that I wanted to cook for a living back when my wife and I were first married in 2000 but, as tends to happen with life, one thing led to another, plans changed, and I ended up joining the Air Force in early 2003. I would spend eight years in the Air Force working for six years as an Armament Systems Maintainer (I loaded bombs and ammo on fighter jets and maintained their weapons systems) and for two years as an Intelligence Analyst. During my 8 years of service, I served in four different duty stations plus two deployments to the Middle East.
All throughout my time in the military, however, I maintained my dream of becoming a chef, and I took every opportunity available to me to push myself and train myself as best as I was able. Despite my best efforts, I knew my training was still insufficient and I enrolled at the Art Institute soon after separating from the Air Force in 2011. At the Art Institute, I got the training I lacked and through tireless efforts taking a course load nearly double a full-time class schedule I was able to graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree in only two years. It was during this time that I first formulated the idea that would become Vet Chefs.
In 2012, I attended a retreat for veterans hosted by The Coming Home Project in which I was exposed to much of the truth behind the rumors surrounding PTSD and other issues that so many veterans face; issues I would be forced to face myself only a couple short years later. Returning from this retreat, I found within myself an overwhelming desire to help other veterans and determined to find a way to help veterans through food service.
Morphing from a non-profit to a for-profit business that would engage in non-profit activities, the concept of Vet Chefs slowly took shape over the next couple years and in the beginning of 2014 I made my first official attempt to get Vet Chefs up and running. I launched Vet Chefs as a business without a truck, but working toward raising funds to purchase a truck and begin the work of helping other veterans through food service. It was an exciting time and efforts were strong and hopeful, but unfortunately, it was not to be at that time and my two partners departed, leaving me crushed financially and otherwise. It didn’t help that shortly before this collapse and even afterwards, I was forced to face my own PTSD demons that I had tried so hard to deny even existed. With the collapse of my efforts to make Vet Chefs a reality, I was crushed and it was in this state of struggling to move forward at all while my family was struggling to make ends meet that we knew we needed a change of scenery and made the move from Truckee, California here to Hanna in the beginning of 2015.
Even though Vet Chefs had collapsed in California and our efforts to purchase our house here in Hanna required the closing of Vet Chefs LLC in California, I kept the Vet Chefs Facebook page active and continued to hold out hope that maybe one day I could revive Vet Chefs and make it all it was meant to be. That opportunity did not come that year. Instead, an opportunity came in the form of The Manly Store which we started working on in 2015 and finally opened for business in the beginning of 2016. We focused heavily in 2016 on building and growing The Manly Store, but always in the background I was looking for the right moment to finally make Vet Chefs work. That moment came in the beginning of this year and after months of work getting everything set up and legal, we were excited to finally open for business in the beginning of May this year.
Soon after opening, however, an avalanche of difficulties hit us, beginning with mechanical problems with the truck, moving into crippling health problems, and culminating in a legal attack from a company in another state who had a similar name (one chosen over a year after we officially began using the name Vet Chefs) and has demanded that we change our name or face litigation from them. They caught us in the middle of all these problems and the fact of the matter was that at the time of their attack, we didn’t have the financial means to either enter the legal fray with them or to even cover the costs associated with changing our name and branding on everything we have it on. Due to this and not seeing any way forward at that time, I put up an ad on Craigslist, putting the food truck up for sale.
Everything looked pretty hopeless and with an emergency surgery I needed on May 31st added to it all, things were desperate. Well, being disinclined to give in to a demand that we change the name that we have a firmly established legal right to, we decided to fight and are now in the middle of that effort to defend ourselves and fight back against this company out in Seattle that is attacking us. Unfortunately, we still are in the middle of our legal fight and there is more yet to come. Our financial situation isn’t much improved and in order to facilitate this fight for the continued existence of Vet Chefs, we will be liquidating The Manly Store’s inventory. The Manly Store will not be closed permanently, we will still be available for ordering items through our distributors, including firearms orders, and we will continue to sell hunting and fishing licenses but after our liquidation, you may need to call ahead of time for us to open up for you (Contact us at the Vet Chefs number – 307-314-2112 – or leave a message at the Manly Store – 307-325-6067).
We are bracing for a legal fight and we are ready to sacrifice heavily, as we have been from the beginning, but now we need some extra help. If you would be willing to lend us your help, we would ask you to please come to our liquidation sale at The Manly Store July 13-15 and 17-18, come get some food from the truck when we’re in town, or buy some of our Vet Chefs merchandise available at the truck or online at our website (www.vetchefs.com). Also, to learn a little bit more about what Vet Chefs really is (it’s a lot more than just a food truck in Hanna) and what it aims to become and how it aims to help veterans, please check out our website and click on OPPORTUNITIES.