Since last summer, the food truck trend has not only hit the town of Buena Vista but also made its mark. Offering everything from barbecue and burgers to gyros and breakfast burritos, these temporary vendors add to the town’s already thriving variety of eateries along the highway and downtown.
Buena Vista has been able to support increasing tourism each year with its vibrancy and small-town appeal, said Town Administrator Phillip Puckett, but growing pains necessitated additional food outlets to satisfy the crowds and to creatively continue the expansion and restoration of Main Street.
“I look at two things that food trucks add to our community. First, I think they help accommodate the increase in traffic, in that they promote foot traffic, specifically, because most are located downtown, and I think that helps with bringing people into and keeping them downtown. Also, they complement our existing businesses very well because, again, capacity is a challenge for all of our town.”
Puckett said vacant areas along Main Street also present a challenge. “When there is one gap or multiple gaps, people sometimes stop walking and exploring, so (food trucks) fill in those gaps nicely, in my opinion.”
Like last year, 10 active temporary vendor permits were issued this summer. The initial stage of permitting food trucks began two years ago, but before the busy season began this year the town administration faced some new challenges that needed to be addressed. First, permits were restructured to allow food trucks to connect to the city’s water and sanitation services in line with code. Secondly, the town expanded the maximum day allowance from 180 days to 360 days, citing food trucks’ ability to accommodate pedestrian traffic and facilitate commerce.
Puckett said most people he hears from recognize food trucks as beneficial to Buena Vista. “I think food trucks definitely fit in with that uniqueness of our downtown, but when the conversation came up about allowing a year-round or 360-day permit – that takes a temporary situation and makes it more permanent, and that is what generated some of the discussion.
“But I think, ultimately, the realization that while there was a desire to go beyond 180 days, operating in the middle of winter just isn’t viable, and therefore the brick and mortars have their spots that are conducive to serving people year-round. I don’t know if we are going to see a lot of temp vendors trying to operate in the middle of winter just because of some of those factors, but you never know.”
Buena Vista is fortunate to see any growth that can eventually offer more tax revenue, he added, and the community as a whole seems in support of its success.
Puckett said, “I think generally this community recognizes them and enjoys them and at the same time is very supportive of all of our businesses. … We want to make sure we are supporting all the businesses and building out our Main Street in a way that preserves the historical character and also keeps the vibrancy as well.”