By Erich Wagner (File photo)
Rich Arslan, owner of the local food truck business Popped! Republic, feared the worst when he realized his food truck, customized for selling gourmet popcorn, had been stolen last Friday.
“I’m doing everything I can just to keep this thing active right now,” he said last week. “That truck is our primary revenue generator. It’s what put us on the map. This could just be a huge, huge, huge potential setback.”
But law enforcement officials said that good Samaritans on social media — and the mobile eatery’s bright orange paint job — led to a swift recovery of the vehicle. Prince George’s County police recovered the truck Friday night along the 3900 block of Penn Belt Drive in Forestville, Md.
Arslan said Friday that he spent much of the day getting the word out, to local news outlets and on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. And by Friday night, that work paid off.
“One of our Twitter followers posted on our account: ‘You know, this truck has been parked outside of my job all day today,’” he said Monday. “I immediately contacted Alexandria police, and they called Prince George’s, who had an officer respond and actually secured our vehicle with what appears to be minor damage at this point.”
Alexandria police spokeswoman Crystal Nosal the high profile of the truck, and Arslan’s efforts, definitely contributed to the vehicle’s quick recovery.
“It’s the power of social media, and the fact it’s a bright orange truck,” Nosal said.
Arslan was thankful that the vehicle was found before the thief could do serious damage to it, or take it to a chop shop.
“It feels fantastic,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to know that our truck has been found with minimal damage. We won’t have to build from scratch by locating another truck and have an entirely new customization process take place, which could easily take six to eight weeks.”
Popped! Republic hopes to get back on the streets of D.C. by the first week of December. Arslan was on his way to Prince George’s County Monday morning to retrieve his cherished food truck and planned to get it to a shop for minor repairs in short order.
“We’ll be doing a walkthrough with the insurance company to assess the damage and determine what work needs to be done,” he said. “There’s a lot of popcorn fanatics that rely on our popcorn to make it through the workday.”
And he’ll continue to keep his online followers apprised of the truck’s rehabilitation.
“I’ll continue to document the whole process and I’ll be posting in Facebook and Twitter as we go through the stages to get back on the street,” Arslan said. “Once we get over this little hurdle and get back on our two feet, we’re planning to do an official ‘Thank you’ out on the streets of D.C. with all of our fans who assisted in keeping us trending while the truck was missing … We’ll offer a free small bag of popcorn just to say thank you.”
In the meantime, Arslan said anyone jonesing for some high-quality popcorn can stop by Popped! Republic’s retail location along South Dove Street in the Port City to pick up a bag.