BY JESSICA FARTHING | PHOTOS BY LLOYD WAINSCOTT
The Southern Peel’s classic truck heats up Bluffton’s food scene
Chloe Zmolek started her food business — The Southern Peel —during the COVID pandemic.
After working in catering in Charleston, she moved with her husband to the Bluffton area to follow his new job. Knowing that she wanted a business of her own, she developed a plan to jump into the event market in her new home despite the pandemic and restrictions on events.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “I’m still scared. I just think I believed in myself and thought I should give my best at something I really wanted to do.”
Her gamble has paid off. She’s booking events and bringing her pizza around downtown Bluffton.
She attributes some of her success during the pandemic to the outdoor aspect of her pizza food truck.
“People can see everything that we do. Everything is outside. I think they were just more comfortable,” she said.
Zmolek worked with a pizza food truck business in Charleston and wanted to do something similar in Bluffton. She asked her old boss, a designer of food trucks, to rebuild a classic 1953 teal Chevy truck found on a South Carolina farm into a mobile brick oven. They stripped the truck down to its chassis, constructing it back with counter space, three beer taps, and a pizza oven imported from Italy.
Zmolek’s first event was at a friend’s house, her trial run for the new business. The second was a wedding, with the truck serving the guests gourmet pizza choices like her popular peach, prosciutto, goat cheese, hot honey and truffle oil pie.
For The Southern Peel’s menu, local ingredients are sourced as much as possible and there is a focus on environmentally conscious behavior. Zmolek offers compostable utensils, plates and napkins to mitigate her waste.
She designed the truck to be a one-stop catering experience with a full menu of appetizers, salads, desserts, beer and wine to complement the pizza.
“The menu options are really endless, which is fun,” she said. “We can choose whatever we want. I ask them to give me the things that they like, and we narrow it down from there.”
The Southern Peel is available for a variety of events, including weddings, birthday and graduation parties, and backyard barbeques.
At a typical party, she sets out tables for guests and displays an array of pizza. She offers many choices to make the event as individualized for her customer as she can. From the menu to the setup, it is personalized with the customer in mind.
The value of the truck is not just the pizza, but the casual, vintage style it can bring to a party. Its age makes it mostly a Bluffton exclusive, Zmolek says.
“The truck itself can drive around 25 miles from downtown Bluffton, but anything farther than that, I usually get it towed,” she said. “I don’t want to put those miles on it.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t travel. She had dates in October to bring the truck to Asheville, N.C., and then back to Bluffton for a night at Lot 9 Brewing Co.
Zmolek, who said her schedule was pretty busy the last few months of the year, is not afraid to take risks with business. Her future plans are to pay off the original investment and then expand.
“My goal is to pay off the truck. If I think past that, I’d want a small brick and mortar and then run the truck out of there as well,” she said. “Honestly, I feel like my options are almost limitless which is nice, but also a little scary.”