A line begins to form early Saturday morning while waiting to place my order at Golden’s own Bonfire Burritos. No one is complaining, because they know what awaits them—deliciousness wrapped in a lightly toasted tortilla. “I think we put a lot of love and effort into it,” says partial owner Travis Toms, working alongside the other line cooks preparing the breakfast burritos. “If something’s not working out, were not afraid to change it and we’re not afraid to experiment.” Sky Schnantz, another owner, is getting the finished orders bagged and ready to go. There are five owners of Bonfire: Matt King, Ian Lanier, Travis Toms, Sky Schnantz, and Raymond Tyler Pierandozzi. All are friends from Golden High School and Bell Middle School; two date back to elementary school.
Photo: Matt King, Ian Lanier, Travis Toms, Sky Schnantz, and Raymond Tyler Pierandozzi
Bonfire Burritos was original started by Cecilia Loya Bustillos sometime between 2006 and 2008 on South Golden Road. “Bonfire Burritos was one of our favorite places to eat when all five of us owners were young and in high school,” says Travis. “Once we graduated college, Ian and Raymond noticed she had a retirement note on her food trailer door saying she would no longer be in business.” So in 2013 the two decided to buy out Cecilia, use some of her recipes, make a few changes, and rebrand the company. Travis then joined the two, trading work for a share in the business. Matt sent in start-up money. Sky also put in a lot of free labor for a share.
They continued using Cecilia’s 16-foot -long trailer for a few years. Eventually they outgrew it and bought a 26-foot-long trailer. In December 2019, the business was moved to 2221 Ford Street. Because of timing of their opening coincided with the outbreak of COVID, they had to rework their business plan. “We went back to our roots,” say Travis. “We realized that the convenience of the burrito takeout and online ordering system we had implemented and simplified worked really well during the pandemic. So all of a sudden, we were really busy.”
In the beginning of the pandemic, they partnered with local business, hospitals in Denver, and first responders, delivering burritos, often at cost. They continue to donate burritos to high schools with BGoldN, a fresh food pantry for those who are food insecure. “We grew up here,” says Travis. “We don’t want to leave anyone hanging. It feels good to be a positive part of things and all inclusive.”
Their philanthropic work has paid off. Employees tend to say longer. Two will be celebrating three years with the company. “A couple of our guys work the farmers market,” says Travis. “We once had all of these extra burritos left over. They took it upon themselves to take the remaining burritos to Volunteers of America low-income housing. That’s just what we do.”
“I never thought I’d see myself in this position,” says Travis. “My favorite part about being in the burrito business is working with four of my best friends and creating a ton of new friends along the way.”