Food, family and friendship are what the Herberts are all about. Jazmin and Mitch Herbert have been running Bert’s Quality Provisions since June 2019. Although Mitch always had a long list of side projects, he never imagined he’d end up in the food truck business.
“My primary career has been in health care administration – the strategic planning side of health care management,” Mitch said. “Jazmin’s work experience was in early childhood education and administration.”
The pair have been married for 16 years and together for 21 years. After meeting in Florida just before turning 20, they also lived in Maryland and have two children, Jackson and Shelby. Shelby was born in 2013 and Jackson in 2017.
Jazmin was born and raised in this area and left when she was 18. Their family moved back to Indiana last year. Their son, Jackson, was diagnosed with a rare congenital heart defect — hypoplastic left heart syndrome — at 21 weeks in utero.
“It’s more or less, he was born with half a functioning heart,” Mitch said. “His first open heart surgery was at 4 days of age and his second was at 5 months old.”
In total, Jackson spent 120 days in the hospital during the first year of his life. After his first surgery, he was home for four days and was rushed to the hospital. He went into cardiac arrest for an hour and was placed on emergency heart bypass. He then spent a month in the hospital. He was rushed to the hospital for respiratory distress a few days after his second surgery and spent another month in the hospital.
“He was intubated a total of 42 days,” Jazmin said. “But who’s counting?”
Jackson came home on Mother’s Day of 2018. “We’ve had over a good year, coming up on two years of good health,” Mitch said.
Jackson eventually has to have a third surgery, planned for June of 2020, and may ultimately be a candidate for a heart transplant.
“His condition only has a palliative approach, so he’s never cured,” Mitch said. “Unless he has a transplant,” Jazmin added.
Doctors have only been performing surgery on patients with Jackson’s condition for the past 30 years. Jackson’s health is the reason the Herberts decided to move into the food industry.
“We knew it would give us the flexibility to make a living, but at the same time manage Jackson’s day-to-day and long-term care,” Mitch said.
Jackson gets therapy up to three times a week — physical, occupational, and speech and language therapy.
“The idea going in was that being self-employed would help us manage our time and manage our responsibilities,” Mitch said.
Mitch started working hard at a business plan in the fall of 2018.
“My idea was, if you were going to come to my house, whether it was a Saturday party or a Sunday family dinner, this is the type of food that I would serve my family and friends,” he said.
The name of the business came easily to Mitch and Jazmin, as Bert is a family name. Mitch’s name is Mitchell Bert Herbert, his father’s name is Michael Bert Herbert, his grandfather is Bert Herbert Jr. and his great-grandfather is Bert Herbert Sr. Jackson’s middle name is also Bert.
“We were thick as thieves — my grandfather, my dad and myself — growing up,” Mitch said. When Mitch realized the mobile concept would provide more flexibility, he began designing a trailer with a company outside of Nashville, Tennessee. The trailer has an 8-foot porch where the smoker lives. The rest of the trailer has a full commercial kitchen and a private bathroom. Jackson comes with them wherever they go so they built it keeping his potential long-term needs in mind.
“The whole taking it from concept to reality was a lot of fun,” Mitch said. “You don’t get to do that too often in business in terms of designing it and also putting it in operation.”
All of the staff is family. Jazmin manages the home-cooked sides, Mitch slow-smokes the meats and Jazmin’s dad and sister assist with special events and operations. The trailer is large enough that Bert’s doesn’t necessarily work like other trucks in the Louisville-area food scene — utilizing street corners. Bert’s works with private property owners, such as Horner Novelty in Jeffersonville and the Professional Arts Building at 1919 State St. in New Albany.
“That relationship just takes time to develop — people that are willing to do that on their private property — but we think that works for us,” Mitch said.
The food truck is actually three businesses in one. It’s a mobile eatery through the window, they do family meals to-go, and they handle catering and special events. The largest event they’ve done to date had a crowd of more than 275 people.
“I think the other thing there’s a need for is destination catering — that’s like if you’re having a reunion or retreat in places there aren’t food services, we can take our trailer — a self-contained, fully functional kitchen,” Mitch said.
They are adding a truck camper to the back of the truck. Their larger events require more support outside of normal hours, so they want a place for their staff and family. Bert’s Quality Provisions has a number of corporate clients they cater for lunch and dinner, but they have also done breakfast — at the New Albany Farmer’s Market, for example. They have also kept a commissary kitchen at the American Legion.
This year, the family is looking forward to the spring and early summer season. Last year, they had a taste of the late summer, early fall festival circuit.
“We really want to promote the catering and special events for wedding ideas and for graduation season,” Mitch said. “I think we’re well-priced for the graduation-type party.” Mitch said the most rewarding thing is seeing repeat customers.
No matter what, the family remains focused on the reason they started it all.
“We built this business to be together and to be side-by-side. •
If you’re looking to stop by, the calendar of where Bert’s will be is always up to date on their website and social media. Check them out at @bqpfoods on Facebook and at bqpfoods.com.
Story by Darian Eswine // Photo by Michelle Hockman