Filling a dream: Couple takes a bite of success at family-run 410 Empanadas in Havre de Grace

Hot dogs. That’s what Gladys and John Springsteel were thinking about when the Aberdeen couple decided to go into the food truck business.

In New Jersey, where they’re from, food trucks and carts selling hot dogs and a drink are popular and successful.

“We know people that have opened up food trucks selling nothing but hot dogs and soda,” Gladys said. “They have been able to pay their mortgages, put their kids through college, marry a couple of kids.”

“It’s big money in Jersey, but I know by doing my homework, that wasn’t the case here in Maryland.”

Instead, the Springsteels turned to something even more familiar to their family: empanadas.

Their restaurant 410 Empanadas opened in January in Havre de Grace after years of operating as a food truck. The couple now runs both a brick-and-mortar sit-down and a mobile truck.

Gladys, who is Peruvian and Cuban, has long made pastry-wrapped and filled hand pies for family, friends and coworkers.

When her husband’s company had their Thanksgiving potluck, she would bring beef empanadas and watch as they were quickly devoured.

“I was barely walking into the door with them and they were gone,” she said.

A friend suggested she consider selling the empanadas. Gladys kept that in the back of her mind as she continued her career in the marine industry in Baltimore and as her husband eventually stayed home to raise their three sons — including twins, working odd jobs when he could.

It was sometime in 2017, Gladys said, when her husband proposed opening a food business and the couple landed on that familiar idea. They used their savings to buy a trailer and John worked to convert it into a kitchen.

The food truck didn’t immediately take off, Gladys said, leading to some scrambling to revamp the menu and a few sleepless nights, too.

They got a break when the city of Aberdeen invited 410 Empanadas to join its weekly farmers market leading to more exposure and more invitations to attend events.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shutting down everything. But it was a blessing in disguise for the struggling business.

Communities that had locked-down residents were asking food trucks to come to their developments to deliver food. 410 Empanadas was able to open an online ordering system, where customers could place and pay for orders ahead of time.

“We were booking every week, one development per week, because that’s all we can handle because by the time we got there, we were already sold out,” Gladys said, adding that often they were feeding an entire family instead of just one or two people since most places only invited one food truck at a time.

The couple continued the delivery to local neighborhoods into 2023, as well as booking a full slate of events, including The Trifecta Food Truck & Music Festival at the Timonium fairgrounds, which bills itself as the largest good truck festival in Maryland.

“It was a huge turnaround for us,” Gladys said.

As their business blossomed, the couple decided to open the 410 Empanadas restaurant in Havre de Grace, taking another chance on success.

The menu includes more than 30 kinds of empanadas, including the original beef, pepperoni pizza, chicken farm, buffalo chicken and John’s favorite, Korean BBQ beef. The restaurant also offers dessert empanadas in apple, coconut custard and guava.

Gladys said she learned to make empanadas by watching her mom, grandmother and aunt in the kitchen. 410 Empanadas is also a family affair, including one of the couple’s sons, Yahya, and a nephew, Abdul, who often run the food truck together.

“I’m not a trained chef. I’ve never been to culinary school,” she said. “When I leave work, I come here and just put my headphones on or my earbuds in and I listen to my music and I just cook, cook, cook and it’s very relaxing for me.”

410 Empanadas

109 N Washington St., Havre De Grace.