Things looked up in the summer of 2019 for Emily and Jordan Gagnon.
The young couple from Astoria and Ridgefield, Washington, took over On Tots, an established food cart topping seasoned Tater Tots with various entrees. They inherited a route of festivals to serve and put a down payment in August to join a massive new food cart pod in southeast Portland.
But when the coronavirus pandemic canceled public gatherings, and the new pod was held up, the Gagnons instead moved On Tots to Astoria, opening Friday in the courtyard outside Reach Break Brewing.
The Gagnons, both in their early 20s, married shortly after graduating high school. Jordan Gagnon trained to be a firefighter before getting hurt and said his interest in entrepreneurship was kindled while working for Sundial Travel in Astoria.
“When I was in high school, we had our senior project where we had to write out our five-year plan,” Emily Gagnon said. “And the only things I remember from it were that I wanted to marry Jordan, and I wanted to own a food truck. But I never pursued that after high school. I didn’t think I had the resources to do it, or the knowledge to do it.”
She started working for On Tots in 2017. Two years later, the food cart came up for sale.
“I was 20 years old, and I figured I’d ask,” Emily Gagnon said. “I figured the worse they could do was say ‘no.’”
Things went great initially, with the food truck fully booked. The couple traveled to events from Renaissance festivals to book fairs. Last Christmas season, they took up residence at the Oregon Zoo during ZooLights.
But the last major event the couple served was the Portland Winter Light Festival in February, after which public gatherings, and much of their income, was canceled. Collective Oregon Eateries, a 36,000-square-foot pod of food carts and miniature restaurants the couple signed up to join, was announced in August but still hasn’t opened.
The couple introduced themselves to Astoria last year, setting up shop twice in the parking lot outside Buoy Beer Co.’s beer hall at the former Video Horizons.
“Locals were really calling us here after the two times we came,” Emily Gagnon said. “It was incredible how many people were commenting on stuff, or messaging us on Facebook, asking us when we were coming back out to Astoria.”
While visiting around Halloween, the couple was encouraged to move permanently to Astoria Station, a courtyard on 13th Street where several food carts gathered around Reach Break and Reveille Ciderworks. On Tots joined Mai Tong Thai Food and CS Fishery, a food cart supplied by fishermen in Garibaldi. It replaced Sasquatch Sandwich, which will reopen this month in the pod at 11th and Duane streets.
“During these crazy times we’re living in right now, to have a true community for support is definitely going to be really awesome,” Jordan Gagnon said.
On Tots opens similar hours to the brewery Thursday through Monday.