Orange City, FL: Eateries Squeamish About Regular Food Trucks

By Dan Harkins | Hometown News

ORANGE CITY – Gram’s Kitchen manager Rhonda Hogue doesn’t have a problem with how the Food Truck Bazaar has been pulling into town on the first Sunday of the month. She just doesn’t want to be neighbors.

“It’s a little too close for comfort,” she said last Thursday while doling out stuffed cabbage and cornbread at the Taste of West Volusia in DeBary. “It’s right at John’s Appliance next door. And we get a drop in business whenever they’re here.”

That’s how those who run many eateries feel about the bazaar, said Councilman Gary Blair, who told his colleagues at a recent meeting that he’d called the city’s approximately 50 restaurateurs in recent weeks and nearly all voiced concerns.

“(They) felt it wasn’t fair these people can come in,” he said, “make lots of money, leave town and not live up to the same standards as they do.”

These sentiments could become more pronounced across the county now that the bazaar has stretched out and sunk in its hooks.

“We agreed to try it one time,” said New Smyrna Beach Parks Superintendent Liz Yancey, “and everybody got a wonderful response, so we’re gonna try it again.”

Created by founder Mark Baratelli from Orlando, the Food Truck Bazaar first came to Volusia County at the parking lot of the Orange City Lowe’s in March, then moved to John’s Appliance on Route 17-92 for its May 6 event.

Last week, despite Mr. Blair’s lone “no” vote, the Orange City Council granted the regular convoy another three-month permit – starting on June 3, this time at the Kmart plaza on Saxon Boulevard.

The previous gatherings were from 5 to 8 p.m., but summer hours will be 6 to 9 p.m.

Roland Simmons, owner of the Pier 16 seafood restaurant on 17-92, said city leaders aren’t thinking about the businesses with a true investment in the city.

“I pay $10,000 in property taxes here,” said Mr. Simmons, who’s owned the restaurant for 21 years, “and these food trucks, they buy a temporary permit. They come into town, put on their little show and lots of people spend their money there. But they don’t have bank accounts here.”

If times were different, he said he might not be so obstinate.

“We’re all struggling here in Orange City,” he said, “and that’s the last thing I need, for the city to bring in something like this to take money out of the pocket of people who do business in Orange City.”

Orange City leaders said they would revisit the issue when considering another three-month permit in late summer.

Orange City Vice Mayor Paul Treusch said he might not visit the bazaar if area restaurants offered similar fare.

“I don’t think I would patronize one of the food truck folks if I could get that specific kind of food at a restaurant,” he said.

Several other cities like New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Port Orange, DeLand and Deltona have invited the bazaar to set up in a more sporadic fashion.

Deltona Mayor John Masiarcyzk said he ate his first chicken and waffles at the bazaar when it appeared on May 9 at Deltona’s Concert in the Amphitheatre Series at Lyonia Preserve.

He expects the convoy to return for future engagements, though he understands how a city with more restaurant offerings might have gotten flack.

“I can see Orange City’s issue, with all those offerings on ‘restaurant row’ on Saxon (Boulevard) and Enterprise (Road),” he said. “It would probably have a negative impact.”

But, he added, “Competition is what America is all about. I don’t know if this is just a fad, but it’s happening all over the country. So if the public supports it and they comply with all the regulations, I don’t see why it would be a concern.”

That seems to be the stance in East Volusia too.

The city of New Smyrna Beach didn’t receive any complaints about inviting the bazaar to its Fifth Friday event in late March on eatery-rich Flagler Avenue, held in conjunction with the merchants association.

The trucks return to the city’s Riverside Park on June 9 for the city’s 125th anniversary celebration. After that, it’s back on Flagler: Aug. 31, Nov. 15 and, tentatively, Feb. 21.

Still, insisted Ms. Yancey, the parks superintendent, “we’re not going to overdo it and if we start getting any complaints, whoa, that’s it, we’re done.”

In Port Orange, the city invited the bazaar to take part in its Family Days celebration in early March. According to Jill Geddy, executive director of the Port Orange Family Days Community Trust, it should be back next year.

“I’m sure if it came every week or every month,” she said, “that it might bother the restaurants, but so far we’ve heard nothing but positive.”

Mr. Baratelli didn’t return several calls for comment.