Darrell Hurmis: The Lowdown on “Wheel Estate”

Food trucks in the Arts District of Dallas.

By Darrell Hurmis | D Magazine

Food trucks in the Arts District of Dallas.

Just as every local strip center owner has accepted the Internet as competition to leasing conventional retail space, welcome back one of the oldest retailers to frustrate landlords competing for tenants—”The Roach Coach,” this time on steroids.

This phenomenon first became noticeable in the Arts District of Dallas, but seems to be spreading like a wildfire. As I drove past the Myerson a few weeks ago to pick my daughter up for lunch, I navigated through a canyon of mobile food trucks that would put a food court in a mall to shame!

During my high school and college summers, the famous roach coach would pull up to the construction site  where I worked, and we would marvel at the wonderful selection of stale donuts (chocolate or glazed!), three-hour-old coffee in a five gallon tin, and a pimento cheese sandwich wrapped in a wax bag. As hard as it was to pass on those delectable delights, we’d often settle for a coke and candy bar.

In doing some research on the mobile retail craze, I visited this site to see what kind of investment the “meal on wheels” would cost. It looked like $26,000 would get me a 8′ x 16′ starter kit; and the big daddy, an 8′ x 32′ palace, would cost around $80,000. What I found interesting is that the strip center’s loss is the vacant landowner’s gain. They are renting out vacant spots as if they are operating a mobile home park.

These “tenants” are hardly of the roach coach variety. The Dallas Arts District publishes a schedule of which food trucks will be operating Monday-Saturday between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Some of the vendors available on certain days are:  4 Seasons, Green House, Gandolfo’s, The Butcher’s Son, Crazy Fish, Potato Potahto, SCI Truck, Ssahm Truck, Dos Paisanos, Enticed, Jacks Chowhound, Three Lions, Cajun Tail Gators, Tin Star Taco Taxi, Coolhaus, Cup Cakin’ Machine, Rock & Roll Tacos, and Enticed, just to name a few.

The latest trend in what I call “wheel estate” is mobile boutiques, which are more popular in New York and Los Angeles and deal in items ranging from fashion designer clothes to footwear. LA’s “Le Fashion Truck” was one of the pioneers in this movement. If there’s not something similar somewhere in North Texas, I’m sure there will be soon.

The advantage to this type of set up for restaurateurs that it is a restaurant and catering truck all in one. The food is freshly prepared and the location can be anywhere. This gives a new meaning to the phrase “Location. Location. Location.” Bricks and mortar have been replaced by steel and diesel fuel!

Darrell Hurmis serves as executive vice president of the investments division at Henry S. Miller Brokerage LLC. Contact him at dhurmis@henrysmiller.com.