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Longmont Local: Longmont food cart reshaped business model to pivot for the pandemic

Edison Parker grew his food cart business to include online ordering during the pandemic. Yet he is not finished growing.

Edison Parker, the owner of the Longmont-based handmade dumpling business Shinkyu-No, had to adapt his food cart business to include frozen cook-it-at-home dumplings early into the pandemic. What was an alternative way to stay afloat, helped grow his business.

Shinkyu-No specializes in rainbow-hued dumplings with twists on classic Asian-cuisine flavors. Drawing from his culinary background Parker enjoys pairing unexpected flavors, including the citrus pork, salmon and mustard green and spinach and water chestnut dumplings. His goal is to make original recipes with a nod to the dumpling’s origins, Parker said.

Parker has always been a fan of the savory dough snack. He taught himself how to make homemade dumplings when he was in going to the University of Colorado-Boulder — freezing the dumplings for a quick meal. At the time, he used store-bought wrappers to hold his dumpling filling. After his mom gifted him a hand-crank pasta machine, he experimented with his own wrappers, adding color so he could tell the different dumplings apart.

He decided to turn his college survival meal prep into a business, opening Shinkyu-No almost three years ago. Though he debated whether or not to buy a food truck, he settled on a little food cart he could transport with his car, similar to a hot dog stand. Before long he was booking private events and serving pop-up meals at local breweries. Parker makes 300 to 800 dumplings on days he spends at his commissary kitchen on Main Street.

Before March of last year, Parker had gigs booked for several months. All of that disappeared overnight as dining establishments shut down due to COVID restrictions. Some of Parker’s friends suggested home deliveries. Any of the dumpling options can be ordered by the dozen through the Shinkyu-No website and come with cooking instructions.

“It really took off,” Parker said. “I had the time I spent out with the cart and it helped me build a base of some really loyal fans. When they found out they could still get the dumplings, that I made, they just went nuts for it.”

Deliveries around the Longmont and the surrounding area became a successful sales channel for Shinkyu-No and Parker plans on continuing the service even though he’s booking in-person events again under Level Clear. Parker is looking at other ways to grow his business. Recently, he got his wholesale license and is hoping to get into stores and local markets.

Parker was born in Denver but moved to the Seattle area when he was young. He always knew he wanted to return to Colorado, eventually moving to Longmont after college in 2015. He said that he and his wife liked the tight-knit feel of the city’s community.

“You can just kind of go anywhere and people are going to know your name sort of thing,” he said. “And seeing how supportive everybody is for each other, and it seems very tight-knit, and it was something I think we both got really hooked on.”

Parker said developing relationships with local businesses that host his pop-ups is important. He also hopes to get involved with fundraising events and work with the Good Life Refuge  — a Longmont haven for farm animals — sometime in July. Though he looks forward to business growth, he doesn’t want to lose sight of how the local community supported his business from its humble beginnings and throughout the pandemic hardships. 

“Being involved with the community, creating a relationship with the community, it's been really important and I think it's been a big factor in the growth of my business and the success of it. And I'm very appreciative for that,” Parker said.

Shinkyu-No is open for online home deliveries or local pickup. The dumpling cart is often spotted at Spirit Hound Distillers on Fridays and Longmont’s Copper Sky Distillery on Saturdays. Shinkyu-No updates its whereabouts on its Facebook and Instagram.