Perseverance and fortitude. That’s how Debbie Gallery helped build a company.
Co-Founder of Gallery Carts, Debbie has been a cornerstone in growing the business from two hot dog carts on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver to a leader in the manufacturing of mobile food and beverage carts and kiosks. Over the last four decades, Debbie has worn many hats and has earned a few million-dollar degrees in real business experience from the University of hard knocks along the way. Often, the best lessons are the ones where the stakes are real. Whatever the job is, Debbie rolls up her sleeves and completes it with respect for hard work, honesty, and an appreciation for the people around her.
Debbie’s involvement in the cart business started in 1980, when her two entrepreneurial brothers Dan and Stan overheard a radio show on the upcoming new vendor ordinance in Denver allowing hot dog carts for the first time. After a bit of research, the brothers bought a hot dog cart from a New York-based company. They named the cart “Chicago Style Sandwiches” and quickly began earning reliable revenue on the streets of downtown Denver. When they told Debbie about their exciting new venture, she quickly saw the growth potential and decided to invest her tax refund to purchase the next two carts. And the Gallery Carts business was born.
While there were many lessons to be learned and structural changes to overcome, the foundation was solid. The family began building carts in Dan’s garage at night and tending the cart during the day. Using their mother’s Italian restaurant as a commissary, Debbie and her brothers expanded the menu to include Italian sausage and Italian beef. The menu additions were a hit, and eventually the cart business was making more revenue than the restaurant. After five years, they closed the restaurant down.
They worked tirelessly, 365 days a year for more than seven years straight, to grow the business. After sourcing and prepping the food every morning, they would hit the streets to serve workers in front of Gates Rubber factory and downtown Denver during the work week. They served tens of thousands of Vienna hot dogs on weekends and holidays at fairs and air shows around the city. At this time, Debbie earned the nickname ‘Flow’ – for ‘cash flow’. It was her job to count all the money at the end of each day and pack the cash in hot dog boxes and pickle buckets to take to the bank.
Debbie takes pride in the family’s ability to make lemonade out of lemons. During the oil downturn of 1983, food carts were now conveniently located on every corner of 16th Street Mall, but restaurants were feeling the pressure. In an attempt to get rid of the competition, the restaurants enlisted a local FDA inspector to come out and evaluate limiting the cart’s menu offerings and assess the overall construction. Debbie met the challenge with her unwavering perseverance and ability to develop connections. Guided by the FDA inspector’s suggestions to utilize NSF design standards, Debbie and her family made further structural changes to the carts. They learned how to save money by incorporating prepackaged, portion-controlled food and saved $7,000 in food costs in one month alone! Debbie travelled with the cart to the NSF labs in Michigan for testing, and Gallery Carts became the first cart manufacturer to become NSF listed. Just like that, they made lemonade from lemons, and the food cart business kept growing. A partnership formed with PepsiCo in 1992, and the family became laser-focused on the cart manufacturing business. Gallery Carts soon became nationally recognized for building high quality, innovative mobile carts for PepsiCo brands such as Pepsi, KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut.
By overcoming challenges, learning from experiences, and finding opportunities to succeed, Debbie has not felt encumbered by gender as a woman in business. Raised with her four brothers, Debbie’s father taught her from the very beginning, “If they can do it, you can do it too”. And he expected that she would do it. Debbie’s mother, Sharon, lead the whole family by living a life driven by her curiosity, fortitude, relentless strength, keen observation, and a can-do attitude that she fortunately passed down to her kids. During Debbie’s nearly 50-year career, she has seen substantial changes, including more women in a broader spectrum of leadership and executive roles. When asked what leadership advice she’d offer to anyone trying to build a successful business, she’ll tell you, “Keep trying. Look for opportunities and keep trying.”
Debbie Gallery has been instrumental to Gallery Carts growth and success.
“In building our business, we were fortunate to have Debbie’s talents in sourcing, purchasing, solving production issues, and most of all, collecting of receivables. Our company wouldn’t be where we are today without her talents and attention to the details. We are so blessed to have Debbie as a true leader in our industry,” says her brother, Dan Gallery IV.
Gallery Carts continues to grow and exceed expectations as a hospitality solutions manufacturer, supplying thousands of mobile food, beverage and retail carts, kiosks, and portables for many of the nation’s top venues. While learning how to retire, Debbie enjoys art, photography, gardening, music, or traveling to exotic places.