Unsung Heroes: Sespe Burger Grows from Food Cart

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Now More Than Ever! Rally Around Small Business 2020 is underway. As the campaign continues, The Business Journal introduces you to some of the businesses nominated by community members as this year’s Unsung Heroes.

Jeff Porter spent four years operating a food cart. It wasn’t too different from his time in Los Angeles when he worked in food trucks. 

Then, in September, Porter and his wife, Christina, opened Sespe Burger, 8252 Market St. in Boardman.  

Christina grew up in Boardman and moved to California. The couple returned to the area in 2015, and began operating their food cart.  

“We’d take it to the flea [market], the breweries. We’d go to Paladin [Brewing] in Austintown; we’d go to Birdfish a lot,” Jeff Porter says.  

“Although we started [with the cart], we were always looking for a little burger place to open up.” 

Jeff Porter, owner of Sespe Burger

Sespe Burger employs five. Its menu offers burgers and fries with some West Coast inspiration.  

Porter says the business looks to add more items. He and his wife had hoped to deploy their food cart this summer at festivals and other events, but state restrictions on public gatherings put those plans on hold. 

“We actually have been a bit busier,” he says of the storefront business. 

Porter says his experience with food carts enabled him to adapt quickly to how the pandemic altered the food business. His shop already had an app that customers used to place orders. Adding the ability to order through the website further streamlined the business, which has limited hours and drive-thru service only. 

Porter says community support is a vital part of operating a small business. Out-of-work food industry employees are invited to contact Sespe Burger via social media and receive a free meal. “We try to support the community as best we can,” he says. 

Pictured: Jeff Porter and his wife started their burger business in a food cart.