By Allison Woodham | Gulf Coast News Today
A new site was in downtown Foley last Wednesday, a food truck, and there’s another one in the same place today. The South Baldwin Chamber staff is saying this new experience will become regular.
“We’ve been working now for over a year with a committee and with members of the city of Foley — various people from different departments of the city — often times with Mayor Koniar, meeting and talking about the development of downtown Foley,” said Donna Watts, president/CEO of the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce (SBCC).
The chamber believes the city has a key opportunity because Foley has a traditional downtown. Many towns and communities, as they develop, will migrate businesses out of a downtown area to a more populated area that may be more inviting to a retail, restaurant or entertainment standpoint.
“We want to be sure as we develop, that we work at keeping our downtown viable,” Watts said.
The SBCC has established relationships with food trucks, restaurants and caterers as a result of the Festival of Flavor in the fall.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool, because downtown is so conducive to it, to have food trucks a certain day of the week?’” Watts explained. “About that time, someone cruised in here from somewhere else and said they had a Food Truck Round Up.”
What if the SBCC had a food truck downtown on a particular day of the week, each week?
One concern for local restaurant owners is if this new truck idea takes business away. Watts ensures that’s not the intention, nor will it ever be.
“We don’t want to ‘compete’ with our local restaurants,” she said. “But we do want people to come downtown. We do want people to see right down the street there’s a new restaurant. We want to help advertise Grumpy’s and help advertise Stacey’s; we want to draw people here to see what we have.”
By doing this once a week, SBCC is introducing new people who possibly don’t frequent downtown to new shops, leasing opportunities and restaurants.
“In talking with the city and looking at what was realistic to begin with, we wanted to start slow, have one truck and see how it goes,” Watts explained. “And if it does and develops, certainly we would probably move it to a different location where we can have more, but still keeping in mind one day a week, not going in head-to-head competition with what we have available here. Portabella’s is right down the road; I have talked with some of those businesses to understand our intent was not to compete, but to enhance and draw a different crowd.”
With a food truck each week, the SBCC plans to accomplish a lot of goals.
“It gets people to come out together, to network, to talk and visit with friends; they get to have fun, relieve some pressure and go back to work feeling great having something a little unique and different,” said Watts. “This is a start. I have no idea where this is going to go, but I hope it goes in a very positive direction.”
The SBCC plans to be in contact with the city to ensure they’re in compliance.
“We’ll be in communication as we move down this road with the city of Foley to ensure we’re doing this correctly and in compliance with all rules and regulations that need to be adhered to,” Watts explains.
Watts says no money exchanged between the trucks or the chamber; this activity is strictly to generate traffic.
“We’re creating interest and involvement,” she says. “And who knows when someone might walk up to get food from a food truck and they think, ‘You know, Foley has a cool downtown. Wouldn’t it be great to invest here?’ This is just for exposure; just one simple thing the chamber can do to help.”