West Highland restaurant owner launching Wheat Ridge food truck park

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Blaine Baggao started a food truck and opened a brick-and-mortar site. Now, he’s combining the two.

The 38-year-old restaurateur behind Adobo in West Highland, which serves Filipino and Mexican food, is launching a food truck park in Wheat Ridge at the end of the month.

“I respect the hell out of my industry and want to give them something where they can feel like they’re at home … as opposed to just showing up and being a nice amenity,” Baggao said.

MoonRise Garden Bar will operate on a 20,000-square-foot lot at 6875 W. 38th Ave. It will hold up to four food trucks, including Adobo’s, and a bar. Baggao’s long-time bartender and friend Dylan Zarett is creating the drink menu and managing the bar.

“It’s really the best of the best coming together, the Justice League of food trucks,” Baggao said.

MoonRise will have both permanent and rotating trucks. Baggao said he’s gotten a lot of interest but hasn’t set rates or committed to any trucks yet.

Baggao said David Heller, who owns the former gas station property, approached him to see if he’d be interested in turning it into a food truck park. Friends from Baggao’s hometown of Roswell, New Mexico, helped with construction alongside Sustainabuilt.

Baggao said they ripped out everything besides the lights and the old gas station building, which was turned into the bar, and laid new asphalt and concrete. He estimated he’s invested about $250,000 in the buildout.

To help offset those costs, he’s hoping to raise up to $120,000 through Honeycomb Credit, a site where people can invest in local businesses.

In addition to financing some of the construction costs, he said about half of the Honeycomb raise will go toward buying a new Adobo food truck for MoonRise.

Back in his full-time food trucking days, Baggao created a network for other truckers. He helped people find places to park, find mentors and gave financial advice.

“I had to put (that) on the back burner but I never lost that passion for the food truck community,” he said.

While he gets MoonRise off the ground, Baggao’s girlfriend Akasha Arnold and Amanda Stoecker plan to launch Happy Belly Productions – a new and improved version of what he did informally before. Happy Belly will lobby for food truck interests, help find places to park, secure permits and connect mentors, he said.

MoonRise’s name is an ode to Baggao’s 8-year-old daughter, Olivia. He said like the moon rising from the dark, his daughter has helped him persevere through “a very dark period.”

“I wanted to have something I could show her that I had (her) in mind the whole time,” he said.

Baggao moved to Colorado in 2006 shortly after his mom died. In 2009 he decided to go back to school – like his mom always wanted – and worked in finance before suffering a brain injury.

“I went to Vanguard and thought my life was set on Wall Street,” he said.  “Then one day, I got hit head-on in a motorcycle accident. My brain was top, and after all that I was a boiled potato. When you lose your identity and your ability to even think, it gets very scary.”

To help get through it, he moved to Denver and started cooking Filipino and New Mexican meals. He eventually started Adobo, in honor of his mom, and now couldn’t imagine going back to Wall Street.

“After a near-death accident, I don’t want to do anything that doesn’t give me deep satisfaction,” Baggao said.

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This story was reported by our partner BusinessDen.



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