Photo Caption: Donna and Jay Wamsley show off in their new food cart, Not Guilty on June 12
The thought of grabbing a quick bite to eat from a food cart on the corner can make a typical foodie shudder with thoughts of processed produce and trans-fats.
Jay and Donna Wamsley are now offering something very different in Athens. Not Guilty – a new food cart business on East Union Street that began operations last week – is offering natural, local alternatives.
"My wife and I have talked about this for quite a while," Jay said, noting that he was exposed to the all-natural food cart option while visiting Austin, Texas. "We just started talking about it and decided it's what we want to do."
Athens County is well known for its emphasis on fresh, local food. It features one of the largest open-air Farmer's Markets in the country, and it filled with businesses and markets that cater to those who like to keep their food regional.
The Athens County Visitor's Bureau even features a 30-Mile Meal initiative, linking together the farmers, markets and businesses in the area that concentrate on local food.
Wamsley said that as his family planned the business they received a lot of encouragement from those who saw Athens as a great spot to introduce such a food cart.
"(It's great) because of the local products that are available," he said.
Not Guilty will offer a little healthier food than is typically available at food trucks, Jay said.
"Our menu will change based on the season and what's available fresh," he said. "For example, this week we're mostly doing grilled sandwiches. All of our sandwiches for the most part will be variations of grilled cheese with different toppings. We're going to have soups year-around. And we're going to be selling smoothies."
Because of the peaches available at the Athens Farmer's Market last Saturday, Wamsley said, smoothies at the cart this week will most feature peach flavors.
"We're also going to be doing desserts based on what's available in the season," he said.
The cart's hours will change from week to week, also depending on the season and events around town. For instance, the first day for Not Guilty was timed to coincide with the first Ohio University Concert Under the Elms this summer.
"It was the summer solstice – the first day of summer – and the concert under the elms," he said. "We typically won't be out there five days a week. It will depend."
The cart will be brought throughout the county, such as for Final Fridays in Nelsonville, and then in Athens for Boogie on the Bricks.
Not Guilty can be found on the College Green side of East Union Street in uptown Athens, he said.
Donna Wamsley is an instructor of food production at Hocking College. The couple also uses the food production kitchen at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) to create the Not Guilty Food Buggy soups.
Donna said Friday that people have been very receptive to the new business.
"It was really encouraging; people are so friendly," she said. "We're going to be doing festivals in this area, and southeast Ohio and probably other areas too."
She said they are excited to be getting up and running.
"I think that what we feel really good about is that people have been very receptive to it," she said. "We can prepare the foods how we want to make them, and make the foods we're interested in and everybody is so receptive to that."