Denver, CO: Food Trucks Fill Needs of Entrepreneurs…

By Liz Navratil |

Stiles Christner’s business has a different location almost every day. The 21-year-old runs a coffee and smoothie shop out of the back of his mocha-colored VW Bus.

He travels from office building to office building, drawing a regular crowd. But no location so far has compared to Civic Center Eats.

As many as 30 food trucks pull into Civic Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays, dishing cuisine to downtown Denver from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For young entrepreneurs, the food trucks present an easy way to start a business. Across the U.S., the mobile restaurants have grown in popularity, sometimes creating controversy as cities struggle to regulate them.

Christner started his truck last fall, about a year after he dropped out of college to pursue his dream of opening a coffee shop.

He picked a retro bus instead of a brick-and-mortar location for The Cozy Bean because it was cheap and, he said, he wished he “had grown up in the ’60s.”

Christner paid a $500 fee to set up in the park twice a week through Sept. 29 (except for Sept. 1 and 6). Like the other vendors, Christner gives 10 percent of his sales to the Civic Center Conservancy, which uses the money to spruce up the area.

The conservancy administers Civic Center Eats.

Almost two dozen trucks set up Thursday. Next to Christner’s truck was Cream City Treats, an ice-cream-sandwich shop run by 22-year-old Elisa Salvat.

Farther down the row, Route 40 Argentinian grill sold $3 empanadas, and Moe’s Original Bar B Que plated $5 sandwiches and $6 ribs.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 people visited for lunch or a snack Thursday. Among them was Kathy Donald, a senior accountant for the Denver Urban Renewal Authority downtown.

Donald said she walked to the park because she spends most of her day staring at the computer in her office.

“It’s nice to get out,” she said.