Hibiscus Jerk Hut, a Springfield-based Caribbean, Jamaican and American food truck, was engulfed in flames last week, and while no one was inside at the time, all of its contents were destroyed.
The mobile restaurant — which operates at 1834 N. Glenstone Ave. in the parking lot of the shopping center that houses Consumers Hardware — is in its eighth year in business, and only its second year in a new food truck.
Neighboring businesses called the fire department, as owners Gladstone and Jamie Morrison were away gathering supplies when the truck ignited around 2:30 p.m. on April 4.
“At first they thought we were just cooking,” Jamie said. “They were like, ‘Glad’s cooking some good food over there.’ And then they saw the flames come out of the top and they’re like, ‘Wait a minute. No, they’re not over there cooking, it’s on fire.’”
From restaurant roots to food truck fame, the Morrisons look to rebuild Hibiscus Jerk Hut
Jamie, a Springfield native, and Gladstone, of Lucea, Jamaica, met while working at Ruby Tuesday, where Jaime was a manager and Gladstone a lead line cook.
Upon getting his culinary degree at Johnson and Wales University and time spent working across the industry, Gladstone sought to open his own food truck, with Jamie supporting his dream.
“I’m doing it for the people, the passion and just the culinary world in general,” Gladstone said. “Just to have a taste of where I’m from, and bring it to the people that are unable to travel to go get the taste of [Jamaica], so I brought it here just to bring a different light, flavor to Springfield, Missouri.”
With a menu that features a blend of American and Jamaican-inspired food, Gladstone has had the opportunity to get creative with his passion for cooking and embolden customers to try a dish with origins in another culture. They serve everything from jerk chicken sandwiches to Philly cheesesteaks, and brown beef stew to an oxtail dinner on a menu that Jamie said is “one of the biggest food truck menus that are out there.”
While Jamie initially tried to balance her job at Ruby Tuesday and helping out at the food truck, business grew to the point where she had to work at Hibiscus Jerk Hut full-time.
“We started off right there on Boonville, and it just grew and grew and grew,” Jamie said.
They originally operated out of a food truck that they bought from a cousin for the first six years, and while it helped them become established, it wasn’t exactly what they needed.
“It was more like a barbeque food truck,” Jamie said.
So two years ago, they had one custom-built for Hibiscus Jerk Hut.
In addition to the food truck, for the last five years they have also owned and operated Allure Flea Market, which sits on the south end of the shopping center in whose parking lot Hibiscus Jerk Hut operates.
While Hibiscus Jerk Hut was Gladstone’s brainchild, opening a flea market was Jamie’s dream.
“I help him during the day in the food truck and then go over to our flea market,” she said.
Between Hibiscus Jerk Hut and Allure Flea Market, they have one primary employee, Stacey Spears, that helps them maintain the two businesses.
Despite losses, Morrisons grateful no one was hurt: ‘God was definitely with us’
While Gladstone and Jamie were out shopping at Sam’s Club, Spears was about to transition from the flea market to the truck to catch up on some food prep and do some dishes. But because Jamie had locked the door to the truck, Spears was unable to get in.
“God was definitely with us because if not, she would have opened that door and the flames would’ve literally came down and got her,” Jamie said.
When the owner of Consumers Hardware saw that the black smoke coming out of the top of the truck was not a result of cooking, he quickly went outside and turned the gas off.
“If he wouldn’t have done that it would have ignited,” Jamie said.
Luckily no one was hurt, but the Morrisons’ lost almost everything in the food truck, with only the food having been insured. The truck itself wasn’t insured because they were told it was too much of a liability due to its proximity to the street, according to Jamie.
Jamie said that the fire department told them it was an electrical fire that started with a microwave, which sat on top of a refrigerator next to a deep fryer. As soon as the flame touched the oil, the entire inside of the food truck caught on fire.
The inner walls, floors and ceiling, and the chimney that sits on top are charred black in areas, and the remaining water from a fire hose rests on a flat top. Jamie said that the flat top and grill should be salvageable, but will nonetheless require some deep cleaning to restore them.
A week after the incident, Gladstone and Jamie have set to work on restoring not only the flat top and grill, but the entire food truck. Jamie said that a firefighter told them it was a “good food trailer” because the shell itself wasn’t severely damaged and is able to be used again.
Gladstone and Jamie get to work on restoring food truck, not letting it disrupt their long-term goals for the business
In their driveway at home, Gladstone donned a face shield and N95 mask as he prepared a concoction of cleaning chemicals, with a power washer and scrub brushes resting near the door of the food truck.
Jamie said that they hope to be up and running within three weeks. While their focus right now is returning the food trailer to the corner of Glenstone Avenue and Florida Street, they still have their sights set on the long-term future of Hibiscus Jerk Hut as well and hope to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in a couple of years.
In the meantime, while they aim to restore the food truck to its former glory, Gladstone and Jamie wear Hibiscus Jerk Hut T-shirts to support the brand on TikTok. After the fire, Jamie created a TikTok account for the business and has been posting videos of them working on repairing it, in addition to keeping customers and followers up to date on their progress on Facebook and Instagram.
A GoFundMe campaign set up by Jaime’s sister Amy Clark has raised $885, as of the afternoon on Tuesday, April 11, to help them with restoration costs.