By Dan Ivers | NJ.com
Officials helped break ground Monday on a new facility they hope might send a fleet of new dining options speeding to the city’s streets.
Mayor Ras Baraka and East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador were among those who helped mark construction on a new commissary owned by Diamond Direct Foods, which will provide food, ice, fuel and other necessities for food trucks hoping to operate in Newark.
The former printing factory at 105 Avenue L, set to open sometime next year, will replace the company’s current kitchen facility down the road.
City officials noted that the groundbreaking was just one of several ceremonies to celebrate the openings or expansions of city businesses this week, including events for the new Prudential Tower downtown and a Shop-Rite supermarket on Springfield Avenue. However, Baraka said the possibility of providing resources for an untold number of culinary options in the city made it stand out.
“These are a bunch of small businesses, and small business is really the backbone of the country and the backbone of our city,” he said. “Our city is going to grow with the help of small biz development.”
Diamond CEO Johann de Villiers said the company employs 76 employees at its facility further down Avenue L, all but two of which are Newark residents. The new building will serve as the company’s new national headquarters, however, and would spur “significant additions” to its roster, he said.
Deputy Mayor for Economic and Housing Development Baye Adofo-Wilson said he was particularly excited about the commissary was indicative of a revitalized market for dining in various parts of the city, and a positive sign for the city’s fortunes as a whole.
“It’s a sign of where the economy is going that there’s desires for food all over,” he said. “This to me, having this here, means that the economy is about to explode, and you’re going to be in the center of it.”
Adofo-Wilson also noted that Diamond did not ask for a tax abatement, which he joked was “not what normally happens.”
Jon Hepner, president of the New Jersey Food Truck Association, said the state has between 200 and 300 registered food trucks, including his own Aroy-D The Thai Elephant truck, based in Verona.
He estimated that around 50 trucks currently operate in Newark, a number that could climb much higher thanks to the new commissary that could make it far easier for restaurateurs to serve their meals on wheels.
“New Jersey has never had a state-of-the-art facility like this,’ he said. “This is going to be a hub for us. This will legitimize our industry.”