Swork Coffee owner Patricia Neale Vuagniaux ignited a lively online debate with her June 16 opinion piece decrying the proliferation of food trucks (and pot dispensaries) in Eagle Rock after a shaved-ice truck parked a few doors down the street in front of , the award-winning sandwich shop owned by sandwich maven Dave Evans.
In our June 29 follow-up article, Evans expressed satisfaction with the results of his experiment in cross-promotion, citing increased business traffic and a 3-4 percent hike in profits as a result of the shaved ice truck’s presence as well as its owner’s savvy social media campaign. Evans also claimed that the shaved ice truck had not cut into the sales of his sandwich shop’s signature smoothies.
However, Vuagniaux, who thinks it would make more sense for food trucks to gather in a parking lot, “with picnic tables and chairs,” reiterates that having a shaved-ice truck down the block did affect the sales of Swork’s ice-cold drinks and smoothies.
“Dave apologized,” says Vuagniaux of her fellow business owner. “He said, ‘I didn’t know it would affect you.’” (Vuagniaux says she asked Evans how he’d feel if she invited a “Subway truck” to park in front of his sandwich shop.) “Dave’s a nice guy,” says Vuagniaux, adding that as Eagle Rock business owners "we just need to respect and take care of each other.”
Evans is not the only Eagle Rock entrepreneur who has collaborated with food trucks. John Nugent, co-owner, with his spouse Jennifer Morgan, of , offers another perspective on the issue.
“We did one tasting with the Kogi Truck a few years ago and it was very popular,” confirmed Nugent via e-mail. “The Kogi guys catered the food to our tasting and we paired the wines.” According to Nugent, he alerted neighboring restaurants whose businesses actually got a bump from the truck’s presence. “The lines were so long for the truck that the [neighboring] restaurants … benefit[ed] from people just getting fed up with waiting,” wrote Nugent.
Nugent thinks the phenomenon was atypical, however, and says it’s unlikely that Colorado Wine Company will be doing any further food truck cross-promotions unless “we come up with a good idea that makes sense.”
Adds Nugent: “We opened our business in Eagle Rock to be part of a community, and alienating our neighbors to make a quick buck would be a pretty terrible strategy. We have , , and all on our block and we love those guys. We would not want to unintentionally cannibalize their business.”
In Nugent's view, food trucks should “absolutely have to be in private parking lots or go through some sort of single-day permitting process to open for business on a public street.” The latter alternative is “not very expensive and does require some foresight but not unreasonably so,” says Nugent. “I don’t see why trucks couldn’t plan their routes and permit their stops in advance.”
However, adds Nugent, consigning food trucks permanently to areas designated solely for food trucks (as is done in Portland, OR, for instance), “seems unnecessarily restrictive.”
Nugent does mention Leo’s Taco Truck, which, he says parks “up near the ,” as a food truck that has found a niche and is making it work. “They park far away from any restaurants and are open later than most food establishments,” says Nugent.
The wine shop owner also refers to the rotating food trucks at Eagle Rock Brewery on Fridays and Saturdays as a possible business model for his upcoming beer store in Echo Park. Like the popular Glassell Park-based brewery, the Nugents’ new establishment has its own parking lot and no restaurants nearby, so any food trucks that park in the vicinity would be less likely to affect other businesses.
On the issue of a food truck’s start-up costs compared to a brick-and-mortar business, Nugent points out that “food trucks don’t need to spend $40K on a grease trap buried in the ground or build handicapped-accessible bathrooms or pay rent.”
Still, notes Nugent, “punishing the food trucks for the ridiculous permits needed and building specifications that we brick-and-mortar businesses have to bear makes no sense.”
“The laws,” Nugent is emphatic, “should change for everyone.”
(For yet another perspective on cross-promotion with food trucks, keep an eye out on Eagle Rock Patch this week for Eat/Drink/See Eagle Rock’s conversation with Leanna Lin Fong, owner of .)