Contents may be delicious: Shipping container re-used as restaurant

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STRATTON — One of the restaurant industry's newest trends has arrived at Stratton Mountain Resort, where BaseCamp, a fast-casual restaurant housed in a repurposed shipping container, opened last week.

Like food trucks, shipping container restaurants are often efficient, self-contained, sustainable and portable. Their growing popularity has been attributed to the rise of other sustainable building options such as the tiny house movement.

"[Stratton] is always looking for the newest way to bring something cool to our guests," said Alexandra Malloy, communications and social media specialist for Stratton.

According to Jan Giejda, vice president of hospitality for Stratton, the inspiration for opening BaseCamp came from his travels and observing the success of pop-up bars in cities such as Denver, Boston and Philadelphia.

Although there are companies that will design, build and even deliver shipping container restaurants, Giejda took his vision for BaseCamp and ran with it. Giejda brought his design and ideas to a custom metal fabricator from the Philadelphia area, who assisted in the design process.. Across the country, new businesses are forming as a response to the container craze. One of the most notable is SG Blocks, the company that created Starbucks Coffee's shipping container cafe in South Salt Lake City, Utah.

Giejda's vision, inspired by other non-traditional eateries, transformed an industrial steel box into a warmly-lit bar and gathering space. Since BaseCamp's orders are taken through a window and the entire structure is only a few hundred square feet, there is no indoor seating. There is however, just enough room for two classic dartboards and a vintage-looking shuffleboard table. (BaseCamp's rooftop will be part of the restaurant's usable space. Stairs, seating, and safety features were being installed while this report was written.)

BaseCamp's chef, John Goddard, expressed excitement and optimism for the new restaurant. "We really are at the hub of activity. This is just the beginning," Goddard said.

Like food trucks, container restaurants are able to move to wherever hungry customers are. BaseCamp is currently located near the South American lift, overlooking the resort's concert venue. The resort plans to relocate BaseCamp during the winter to the space in front of the Gondola lift. This mobility allows the restaurant to adapt to and flow with the seasonal changes in foot traffic patterns. In addition to atmosphere, the food at BaseCamp adds variety to the Stratton dining lineup. It is the first fast-casual offering at the mountain. The restaurants in the village are mostly sit-down style, while the Base Lodge and Sun Bowl Lodge serve meals cafeteria-style.

"We wanted the [BaseCamp] menu and the bar area to reflect the classic vibe that Stratton holds for its guests but also the gritty and rustic feel of the Green Mountains," said Giejda in a press release earlier this month.

The menu features made-from-scratch classics with a twist, like grilled pierogies and hand crafted cheese burgers. The bar is equipped with several taps ready to pour a rotating selection of craft beer from Harpoon, Fiddlehead and other Vermont-based breweries. Innovative design, craft beer and great food are just the beginning. On Mondays, BaseCamp hosts a dart league and on Tuesdays, a shuffleboard league. Teams must participate in at least six of the seven weekly contests in order to win the grand prizes of two TVs for the dart league and two mountain bikes for shuffleboard.

Giejda said that the most rewarding part of opening BaseCamp has been people's reaction to it. "[I've heard] holy cow, you have one of these things here," he said.

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