Dallas: Food Trucks Have It Tough, But Trailer Permits Are Impossible

This lonely trailer is mired in murky permitting requirements. Bubbles could be destined for the island for misfit toys.

By Scott Reitz | Dallas Observer

This lonely trailer is mired in murky permitting requirements. Bubbles could be destined for the island for misfit toys.

Leora Azoulay Lesh and Heather Zidell may have bitten off more than they can chew. The partners dove in head first with their plan to open a small basement bakery in the East Side Center. To differentiate their bakery, they bought and renovated a small Airstream trailer they hoped they could turn into storefront that would let them sell gooey cupcakes to the masses, while keeping their footprint small. The original idea was to permanently install the building outside the bakery.

“We opened Trailercakes not realizing the obstacles we would face,” Lesh told me by phone. And why not? The rest of the country was full of baking trailers and the business model seemed to be working. “We thought we were going to have the first cupcake trailer in Dallas, and then we found out there was a reason why there were no food trailers here”. The permitting process in Dallas is not an easy one, especially when business models don’t fit neatly into the city’s preconceived legal lexicon.

Looking to save their investment, the Trailercakes girls dreamed up plan B: It was time to take their trailer, affectionately named Bubbles, on the road. But that road was filled with even more obstructions. Without an engine, they couldn’t be classified as a food truck. A permit for a food cart didn’t work either, as Bubbles was too large. Even though the trailer and storefront met all the requirements for a food business, there was no way to combine them into a feasible, and legal, business model.

Lesh and Zeidell aren’t giving up. They’re currently using a less strenuous temporary permit to sell their confections. The permit keeps them open, but is hardly optimal and expires after 14 days. To keep going, Bubbles will make appearances at private and special events, in the Art District and elsewhere, leveraging temporary permitting as laws require.

Those who sympathize with Bubbles’ plight can show their support at Sigel’s DFW Food Truck Festival. The Trailercakes ladies will be there with a fresh supply of cupcakes loaded with sweet frosting.