Local Business

Jeff Treadway loads another box of potatoes onto the food truck. In 2020 over 27 tonnes of spuds were turned into tasty fries.

A favourite downtown food truck is offering up a hearty helping of happiness along with their signature fries.

According to owner Jeff Treadway, while smiles have always been a staple on the menu at the Jeffer’s Fryzz location on Nanaimo Avenue, right now they are now more important than ever.

“Since COVID we’ve been so busy and I think the biggest reason is that customers feel a sense of normalcy coming here, it’s the same smiley faces, the same customer service, good food and happy times,” said Treadway while serving up his classic russet potato fingers, something he’s been doing for nearly four decades at that location.

“When times are tough I really like avoiding sad talk, bad talk. We don’t promote talking about COVID crap. We talk about positive things and when people leave they have a

little bit of bounce in their step… and some good fries.”

Quality explains why Jeffer’s staff in 2020 hand cut more than 27 tonnes of spuds served on their own or in the other two customer favourites: fish and chips and poutine.

While business during COVID has been good, it’s not been without its challenges, including keeping staff and maintaining

sanitary conditions.

“I worked basically by myself for three months and it was just brutal, we didn’t have any regulations so I had to make up my own rules,” said Treadway. “I wore a mask, not because I had too, but I thought it was just what I should do. I was washing every bill and change that came over the counter so everyone got clean money and I was putting condiments on the fries for the customers.”

He even laid off his son, Tim, to whom he donated a kidney in the spring of 2016, for those three months.

“I couldn’t have lived with myself if he got sick because I didn’t want to work, so I kicked him off the truck,” said Treadway.

Tim’s now back on the job and there’s a bit more onus been put on the customers to maintain sanitary conditions.

Treadway, whose full name is Kendall Jefferson, is named after his dad, who later tagged him “Jeffer.”

He was working at a finance company in Ontario when he decided to go into the fry business, something his brother had been doing for years.

That was in 1984, the same year that the Penticton council of the time decided they would like to have a food truck in the downtown.

Treadway’s aunt lived here at the time, so he applied, got the tender, bought an old food truck and drove it from Ontario to Penticton. He never looked back.

So happy with his work, the city has since grandfathered his parking space in perpetuity.

Treadway’s secret to the perfect fry, crispy on the outside and soft inside, is the knowledge of the double-fry method and cooking time, which can vary from hour to hour.

A stickler for perfection, Treadway will serve no fry before its time.

“My sign says expect the best; it doesn’t say sometime, or most of the time, it’s all the time,” he said.

He also claims to have brought the Quebec favourite poutine, cheese curd and gravy and fries, to the valley in the 1980’s at the suggestion of transient fruit pickers from that province.

The gravy he serves is proudly credited his to his mom’s teaching.

Among the celebrities who have eaten his fries, including pro hockey players and the occasional celebrity, was the Queen of England — well not quite.

“I did a banquet for (business magnate) Jimmy Pattison and he had a Queen look-a-like, she was all dressed up, it was pretty cool,” said Treadway.

While most food trucks are put in mothballs over the winter, Jeffer’s remains open rain or shine or snow.

“A big part of staying open is for the people who come here. My customers are amazing, the best of the best, it’s heart-warming and I just love them.”