Scotty Grossbard got the phone call 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, on his first vacation since his Jewish deli-themed food truck Jew Hungry? opened eight months ago.
“I knew something was wrong,” he said. The bar manager of the 04 Lounge, which Jew Hungry? parks in front of, told him the food truck had been broken into, and he immediately started the eleven-hour drive home from New Orleans, where he was celebrating his girlfriend’s birthday.
In the heartland of Texas, Grossbard ran a food truck that made sure to specify that it was #LGBTfriendly on every single blog post about it. The menu offered items like Bubbe’s Latkes and Challah At Cha Boy, a sandwich containing ½ pound of corned beef with muenster cheese on a challah roll.
But on the night of October 31, someone broke into his food truck; the windows were busted. “They had ripped open boxes, poured bags of chips all over the floor, but what really got to me was the sign of the cross and the quarters on the driver’s side,” Grossbard said. The perpetrator had left an iron cross (the 19th-century German military medal that preceded the swastika) and coins, a symbol of Jewish greed, as Grossbard interpreted it.
“Every day I’m finding new things that have been broken or ransacked,” he said. His fryer was stomped on, his flat-top was ripped out (Grossbard electrocuted himself trying to put it back together) and there’s still shattered glass all over his truck. Grossbard can’t clean it up until he hears from the insurance.
Grossbard, who prior to Jew Hungry? worked at Magnolia Cafe as a kitchen manager for over 10 years, put his life savings into the food truck, often living off of only $40-50 a week. Opening his own business was his dream. “I opened Jew Hungry? to bring something to Austin that’s been missing, to show my daughter that no matter what stands in your way, you can always persevere,” he told the Forward.
“The outcry has been amazing. It made me cry a lot. Some of them have been good tears. Some of them have been upset tears,” he said. A bartender from the 04 Lounge came over and did inventory of his truck with him until 5:30 am. Grossbard set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to get Jew Hungry? back to where it was. He asked for $2,000. As of now, he has raised $12,000.
“I’m gonna reopen,” he says. “I’m actually open right now but I’m limited in what I can do.” This is the first time since opening that Grossbard hasn’t been able to stick by his official hours listed on his site.
“The only reason I said anything to the news people is because I felt like people needed to know, hate’s been going on for a long time in this city,” he said. “Just no one says anything.”
Austin is the second city with the most food trucks per capita in the United States. Yet the investigating detective told Grossbard that his was the only food truck targeted; all the other city food trucks were fine.
“I just keep asking myself, why me?” said Grossbard.
There has been no increased police scrutiny around the food truck, and police have been unable to uncover camera footage of the accident. The accident happened on Wednesday night. Tuesday, four days later, was the first time a detective personally reached out to Grossbard. “I’m looking behind my back more than I ever have,” he said. “It makes me a little nervous to be out and about. But I’m not gonna let this stop me. But I need time to get back to where I was, to feeling comfortable, to not being scared.”
Shira Feder is a writer. She’s at email@example.com and @shirafeder