Opening a new business during a pandemic might not sound like a prudent move for some.
But for Margaret Titian and her husband Jon Manson it made perfect sense.
Titian, a member of Ahousaht First Nation, and Manson, who is a member of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, have decided to add another component to their family fishing business.
Instead of simply selling fish that they catch to various corporations and restaurants around Tofino, earlier this month the couple launched the T-M Food Truck.
This business is named after the first letter of the couple’s surnames, Titian and Manson. It is currently based at Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort, which is owned by Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.
The couple’s three teenage children, Darren, Lee and Abigail are also helping out, not only by fishing but by assisting in the food truck operation.
Manson said he purchased the truck last September.
“It used to be a catering truck for all of the movies on the mainland,” he said.
Popular menu items thus far have included halibut, crab, clam chowder and fish and chips.
Manson believes the T-M Food Truck is a rather unique business.
“I don’t think there is a place on the island like this,” he said. “There’s no other place that comes straight from the fisherman right to the consumer.”
To this end, Manson said his family will continue to fish for a living and then sell off portions of their catch via the food truck.
Manson said he was partly inspired to launch the food truck business since he felt others were not paying him a fair price for the fish he was delivering to them.
“I’m tired of the bigger corporations giving us an Aboriginal wage for our fish,” he said. “We want to cut out the middle man and prove we can make a decent living out of it.”
Manson does not believe it’s a risky venture beginning the food truck operation during a pandemic.
“I’m not too worried about the food truck,” he said. “This is just an added extension to our business.”
Manson said all of his family members are legally catching and selling of their seafood from their rights-based fishery.
The BC Supreme Court had recognized in 2009 the fishing rights of five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, including Tla-o-qui-aht, to catch and sell all species harvested within their territories.
Titian said the COVID-19 pandemic actually inspired her family to think about opening a food truck.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “Being in the pandemic is what made us think to do it.”
That’s because Titian said with many restaurants not allowing in-person dining during portions of the pandemic, takeout service has been a lifeblood for many.
“Most of the business right now is takeout,” Manson added. “I’d be stupid to not go in and make the move now.”
Titian added the couple’s children are indeed pleased to be involved in the newest component of the family business.
“They were the ones that were really wanting it,” she said. “They were asking us when are we going to start.”
The first day of business for the T-M Food Truck was Mar. 6.
Though they had a fair number of customers, Manson would have preferred to see more.
“It’s slow,” he said. “It’s still pandemic season.”
Titian believes the last few days things are looking up for the business.
“It’s picking up already,” she said. “The first week was slow. But we weren’t there to promote it daily.”
The reason the couple could not devote more time to the food truck business in the past few weeks was because both Titian and Manson had a recent death on their side of the family.
Though better weather days are ahead, Manson said it is difficult to predict when the food truck operation will be receiving frequent business from individuals outside his community.
Pandemic restrictions are still in place on his First Nation.
“I’m not too sure when things will open up,” he said, adding only community members are allowed in now. “Our gates are still up.”
The plan is to try and have the T-M Food Truck open from noon until sunset from Wednesdays through Sunday.
Closing time, however, could be earlier if they run out of their daily supply of fish.
Weather will also play a huge role and determine if family members can actually go out to fish that day.
“I can’t predict the weather and when it’s going to be a good time,” Manson said.