Thomas Gilson, the owner of The Cheese Melt, a gourmet grilled cheese food truck based in Wheeling, West Virginia, started his business in 2014. Originally, Gilson started his business with a small hot dog cart and then converted into a grilled cheese cart. Finally, he then bumped his cart up to a food trailer and two years after that built a full-blown food truck. Today, he currently runs both the trailer and the truck in the Ohio Valley for lunches, special events and catering. 

Gilson talked with Jim Matuga, host of The Positively West Virginia Podcast, about his business, his biggest challenge and what he’s excited about for the future. 

What is your 30-second pitch for The Cheese Melt? 

“We’re what you consider to be a gourmet grilled cheese food truck or a grown-up grilled cheese food truck,” said Gilson. “We offer you high-quality ingredients. We thick-cut sourdough Cheese Melt Truckbread, use real butter, and an Amish type of cheese from Walnut Creek, Ohio.” 

“The Cheese Melt has one award-winning sandwich called Beale Street. I entered it into a grilled cheese competition a few years ago and it won one of the judge’s choices spots. That sandwich has a hot pepper cheese which is no pepper jack. It’s spicy and it has some heat to it. We also put some crumbled up gorgonzola on there, which is a type of milder form of blue cheese and then we top it with chopped up freshly cooked bacon, sliced Honeycrisp apples, and a little bit of kale.”

What is the thing you’re most excited about for your organization?

“Just the fact that we are still going strong. This business is not easy; it takes a lot of work and sweat. There is a large learning curve when you’re in a market that doesn’t really have any other food trucks for you to lean on,” said Gilson.

What is your worst business moment?

“Sitting around at Jamboree in the Hills last year knowing that I was losing my butt,” said Gilson. “For hours on end while I’m sitting there paying two employees to twiddle their thumbs.”

“It was just a very humbling experience. When you’ve got a $2,500 buy-in and then you’ve got another $4,000 worth of bread and bacon sitting in your fridge and another $1,000 worth of cheese. Knowing that you’re just not making any money at all because you don’t compete against the market that you’re in right now. That was a tough blow to take because I was so amped to go into such a large venue and I was prepared to crush it. I was mentally prepared to crush it and work really hard because it is not easy to make that many sandwiches.” 

What is one thing you do every day that contributes to your success? 

“I do the work! I get up, eat, shower, and I go to work,” said Gilson.

Gilson was a guest on The Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to his full podcast here.

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  • PIECE OF ADVICE: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is today,” advised Gilson.