Rally 'round the food trucks
Food push cart vendors have been around since the late seventeenth century when New Amsterdam-now known as New York City- started regulating their food vendors. The next century saw these vendors spread to the Chuck wagons of the old west and dining cars on trains. There was even a mobile wiener cart used by the Oscar Mayer Weiner Company in the early 1900s. The first gas-driven trucks to sell edibles began in the 1950s when ice cream trucks made their debut with a great welcome in the United States. The first bonafide food truck however was said to be owned by Raul Martinez of Los Angeles, when he converted an old cream truck into a taco mobile and parked it out in front of an L.A. bar.
FROM COLD TO HOT THERE'S A LOT
Food trucks have been on the Champaign-Urbana scene for a few years now. Kona Ice franchisee, Wes Hanner said he and co-owners enjoy the business.
"This is a family business and everyone is involved," he said.
Hanner's parents, Chuck and Linda Hanner, fiancée, Andrea Laird and his brother, Austin-when he is in town-all help in the running of the trucks.
"This year my Aunt, Phyllis Lareau, has been helping out quite a bit. It's definitely a team effort," Hanner said.
The Hanners started Kona Ice of Champaign in May of 2014 with one KEV- Kona Entertainment Vehicle.
"I chose this business because it looked like a lot of fun. I wanted to do something that would bring enjoyment to others," he said. "The reactions when people see our vehicle coming through their neighborhoods is the best," Hanner said.
RALLY 'ROUND THE FOOD TRUCKS IN URBANA
The City of Urbana is holding a Lunchtime Food Truck Rally series from11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the last Tuesday of every month for the duration of the summer.
"The rally was an idea of the Economic Development Division of the City of Urbana. We thought it would be fun to offer something mid-day during a week day in our downtown, with the hopes that all of the folks in the offices around downtown Urbana might be able to get out and enjoy a fun lunch hour event close to their office," Natalie Kenny Marquez, Marketing Coordinator for the city said. "It's also an opportunity for families to check out food trucks at an event that has easy parking, accessibility to restrooms, and seating for a rain or shine event."
In fact, it's been such a success, that they ran out of food for the June rally. Some of the trucks that have been in the rally so far are: Burrito King, Dragon Fire Pizza, Hendrick House, Piato to Go, ROK'S Korean BBQ Tacos, Tang Dynasty and The Pop Stop.
In order to participate in the food truck rally each food truck must have the appropriate permits and be registered with the City of Urbana.
NOT YOUR BRICK AND MORTAR BUSINESS
Deciding to own a food truck, rather than a brick and mortar business can have its own special considerations. Food trucks need permits to park in certain spots, and then they can only remain for a certain amount of time in that space. Plus, customers may not know where to find their favorite truck. This is where social media can be helpful.
"You can find out where Kona Ice is and what we're up to be calling 217-974-KONA or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also post on Facebook-Kona Ice of Champaign- where we'll be, also on Instagram: konaicechampaign and Twitter: konachampaign," he said.
A convenience for food truck owners is that they can take their business to the event. Sometimes the owners even get involved because it's something meaningful.
"We've done a lot of awesome events and we've worked with so many great people, but I think the most memorable was the Buddy Walk for the Champaign County Down Syndrome Network. It was a lot of fun to be able to raise money for such a worthy cause. My mom and I worked the event together and neither of us knew anything about the Buddy Walk. It really had a huge impact on us both," Hanner said.