Whether you are working in the food truck industry, know someone who is, or are simply a beloved follower of a particular truck (or twelve), you are no stranger to seismic levels of activity on the home front of the rapidly evolving industry. Some call it musical chairs, others call it the revolving door, I prefer to call it what it is: “change.” For better or for worse, it is an argument that could run its course like a broken Willie Nelson record, with the same debate belted out over and over.
Over the years we have seen the East Side Drive close down, Turf & Surf Po Boys grow into brick & Mortar, Snap Kitchen moving onto the Historic Congress Avenue sidewalk, Odd Duck Farm to Trailer shut its doors to focus on the now famous Barley Swine, and so much more small but instrumental shifts in the market. Upon us now is presumably the largest and most disruptive change, the iconic South Congress Food Park will be serving its last meals on the day of May 25th 2013.
Originally intended to be temporary in nature, the lot turned into a gold mine as no one could have expected the troves of tourists to descend on South Congress from across the country come to sample the smorgasbord of multi-cultural selections the trailers have to offer. They have been told to move before, so you sit idly by expecting it to blow over like another Texas thunderstorm. Except this time, they’re for real. SOCO ATX Development & Big Red Dog Engineering are partnering to bring Austin yet another 3 story mixed-use boutique hotel, while wiping off the map one of the largest tourist attractions in South Austin. The terrible irony here is that the developers are removing a tourist destination in order to make room for more tourists.
“The food trailers on South Congress Avenue are one of the defining characteristics of Austin’s culture. It is a favorite spot to grab a bite to eat for locals and tourists and reinforces the appeal of the shopping venues on S. Congress. Clearing out this Austin landmark to build another hotel would be seriously detrimental to the tourism industry you are seeking to cultivate. Please work toward a solution with the food trailer owners and perhaps the shops of S. Congress.” Austinite Brian Nelligan
While most of the trucks scramble to find new locations such as the Austin Food Park, others wait out the storm as long as possible, hoping this is just another one of the many obstacles food truck owner’s are presented with. When all the musical chairs finally settle there may be more than just a few left standing with no chair, or place to put their food truck. The rush is on now to find the next big tourist destination that will spring up and replace SoCo!
Fortunately for food truck followers and owners alike, for every developer out there that is looking to turn Austin into a concrete jungle (ie. Dallas or Houston), there’s a hero out there willing to do whatever it takes to uphold Austin’s age-old culture and create an environment for food truck owners to succeed. I recently caught up with the proprietor of Austin Food Park, Shay Reynolds, whose new park is helping to fill the void left by the development on SoCo. The Austin Food Park is located at 30 North IH-35, Austin, Texas 78701 and is just a few minutes walk from the Hike & Bike Trail and another rapidly changing area, the Rainey Street District.
As an entrepreneur that operates 3 local businesses in downtown Austin including, Explore Austin Texas, Gliding Revolution, & the Austin Food Park, he has the tourism market lined up in his cross-hairs. With all three of his businesses located adjacent to a 322 room Holiday Inn on Lady Bird Lake, they have begun to carve out their own niche. Easy access to the hike and bike trail, as well as ladybird lake, Rainey Street, and all of downtown Austin make this a convenient location to catch up with old or new friends over a delicious meal before hitting the trail or town. Free wi-fi, portable restrooms, games for children, shade, water for the pets (yes this is a dog friendly venue) and 4 local food vendors including, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, & Shaved Ice have already made this a place to be for insiders who took the time to stop and check it out.
As Mr. Reynolds mentioned, “With available space for up to 5 more vendors, and a 5 year lease we have a lot of room to grow as the area around us continues to develop further, forcing many other parks to close their doors.” He reiterated that he opened this park as somewhat of an open forum for local business owners to try their hand, giving them yet another opportunity to succeed. From local jewelry vendors, photographers, food truck owners and everything in between, he has created an enjoyable environment downtown to display and showcase your business in front of 400,000 cars passing daily. For business owners interested in learning more about the opportunities available to you at Austin Food Park you can reach Shay at firstname.lastname@example.org