Food trucks have taken over metropolitan cities, the Food Network and even Twitter, and now local entrepreneurs are bringing the trend to the ‘Boro.
Roger Clapp poses with Julia’s Sweet Truck outside of the bakery Dec. 13, 2012, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The new mobile bakery is a one-of-a-kind local food truck. (TMP Photo/M. Willard)
Dan Rodenburg kicked off the food truck frenzy when he launched Shorty’s Pizza Bus, which makes, bakes and serves pizza straight from the insides of a gutted 20-passenger school bus. It travels around feeding cheesy, toppings-laden pies to patrons like those from Mayday Brewery.
The newly opened brewery serves up a mean pint of beer, but opted to forgo installing a kitchen. Instead, they call on food trucks to feed hungry folks, according to Ozzy Nelson, who opened the brewery with his wife, Pamela.
“They’re awesome,” he said of food trucks. “We can just call these guys, and they come. That’s what’s awesome about it. And it’s something different every time. That mixes it up for people in the tasting room, so they don’t have to get the same thing every time.”
Currently, Shorty’s Pizza Bus is the only food truck from Murfreesboro that visits Mayday Brewery. A handful of others travel from Nashville to serve steaming hot barbecue, tacos and soul food through the built-in windows of trailers and trucks.
But there’s a new kid in town that’s looking toward the sweeter side of things. Well known for its sugary confections and pink boxes, locally owned and operated Julia’s Bakery unveiled its own Sweet Truck.
Custom built by Miami Trailer, which specializes in food service vehicles, the pink dessert truck will feature 60 of the bakery’s 160 menu items, said Roger Clapp, who owns the bakery with his wife, Julia.
“The truck is a mobile bakery; it has display cases inside just like we have in our bakery,” he said.
Julia’s Bakery set up shop on Medical Center Parkway some five years ago, and the rest, as they say, is history. It has been a hit with the individuals and businesses, alike.
Clapp says his goal was to grow the bakery and eventually add other locations. The decision to go mobile was made only after he and Julia visited their daughter, Lauren, at her internship in Los Angeles.
“We noticed the food trucks that were there and how much excitement they generated,” he said. “One thing led to another … instead of doing a store front in Nashville, we did a mobile unit so that we can move around to different areas.”
Julia’s Sweet Truck plans to visit Davidson County, Metro Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin and Lebanon, and “possibly branch out to some outlying areas for special events like festivals. There’s a lot happening in our neighboring cities.”
“What makes us a little unique is that we’re the only full-line bakery vehicle,” Clapp said.
“There’s not a truck like ours in the whole United States, the whole nation. We researched, and we tried to find a model to go by. We could not find one from New York to Miami to Houston to L.A. and San Francisco. The reason we couldn’t find anything to fit what we’re doing is because most people would specialize in breakfast items, or they would specialize in cupcakes. But with us, we’re bringing our menu items from the bakery brick-and-mortar to our mobile vehicle.”
And his next goal? “To be one of those Top 100 Trucks in the U.S. And I think it’s very reachable.”
The Sweet Truck will also be joining the Nashville Food Truck Association, a group of culinary entrepreneurs who have taken up the age-old method of street vending to provide high-quality, diverse and exciting cuisines to Nashville and surrounding areas.
“In a united effort to help deal with the impacts of our industry to the community, we’ve formed this organization to handle any issues in a positive and progressive manner,” the NFTA’s mission states. “Our primary goal is to promote and protect our industry as a viable and beneficial business model and to provide a positive addition to the local economy.”
Additionally, the group aims to “work cooperatively with municipalities and governmental bureaucracies to review codes, ordinances, procedures and enforcement so that they better address the realities of this new industry and not try to apply out-dated and inapplicable rules to this novel and dynamic business model.”
That part can prove tricky in cities like Murfreesboro, where the food truck phenom is relatively new.
City Code prevents vendors from setting up shop and selling products on public property or in public right-of-ways. However, city zoning ordinances do allow them to set up without a permit if the vendor is accessory to the principal use on the property, explains Matthew Blomeley, a principal planner with the city’s planning department.
Vendors who are not accessory to the principal use are required to apply for and obtain a special use permit. This includes vendors who are leasing space in a parking lot and vending, but not actually accessory to the principal use.
For example, Shorty’s Pizza Bus is accessory to the primary use of Mayday Brewery because the brewery doesn’t serve food.
“There is a kind of symbiotic relationship between his business and Mayday Brewery,” Blomeley continues.
The regulations can be difficult to explain -- and understand -- but Blomeley says vendors typically consult with him first to understand the parameters of the zoning ordinance and maintain contact if questions about specific situations arise.
“We have an understanding that the industry is evolving,” he said. “Whether or not anything will change with regards to regulations, I don’t know. But the fact that the industry is evolving is something that we, as city officials, are aware of.”
For some vendors like Broad Street Eats, the zoning regulations were a breeze. The food trailer operates as an extension of Broad Street Tobacco and Beverage, which doesn’t serve food.
Owner Jamie Jennings wanted to provide food to his patrons, but his current space didn’t provide enough room. He opted for a 14-by-18-foot trailer that proved to be the perfect complement. Broad Street Eats brought on board Anthony “Tony” Wong, who has more than 20 years in the restaurant industry.
Breakfast begins at 6:30 every morning with sandwiches and hot plates, while lunch features a rotating menu of meat-and-three options.
“We buy the oak barrels Jack Daniels holds their bourbon in, and blend local hickory with it,” says Jennings. “We then slow smoke our pork with these delicious flavors. Available by the sandwich or pound, they’re great for parties or family dinner!”
Jennings says this is his way to set the tobacco store apart from its competitors.
“There’s no other tobacco store in town where you can go and have a variety of food options,” he says. “And right here in this immediate area, there’s nowhere (to eat).”
When the weather warms up, Jennings plans to turn his food trailer into an outdoor dining destination complete with picnic tables and TVs.
Visit each food truck’s Facebook and Twitter pages for menu and location updates.