December isn’t exactly peak season to start a business in Juneau, let alone one that involves dining outdoors. But Marty McKeown, owner of the site where the new Vintage Food Truck Park debuted last Friday, said he considers it an ideal year-round presence in the business and residential area.
“I’ve been looking at this lot for a couple of years, and when my daughter bought the Crepe Escape we started talking more and more about how it would be fun to have year-round food truck park,” he said while explaining the layout of the partially-completed park along Clinton Drive on Wednesday.
Two trucks — Alaskan Crepe Escape and the burgers-and-wings Devils Hideaway — had what McKeown called a soft opening on Dec. 1. Three more trucks are planned — Adobo Pinoy Kitchen featuring Filipino food, The Wagon serving beer and wine, and a Mexican food truck — along with covered seating seats where McKeown said he hopes to feature occasional music and other events.
“We’re going to have the whole place lit up,” he said. “We’ve got two pergolas that are built and in place — they’ll be decked over and connected — and then we’re getting roofs put on them.”
The seating shelters will also have heaters, plus perhaps temporary walls during the winter months to protect diners against the elements, McKeown said.
The December opening wasn’t intentional. McKeown said he started the project in January in the hope of having the park open by July or August, but delays involving the city and contractor resulted in the delayed soft opening.
His daughter, Madelynne McKeown, said her Crepe Escape food truck downtown sees enormous seasonal demand, but having a second year-round truck at the Vintage Food Truck Park is an opportunity to reach a different crowd. She is also the owner of The Wagon truck still awaiting its debut.
“The issue in the valley is that there are a good amount of food places that don’t have the best hours and there actually aren’t a ton of options,” she said. “And we kind of saw the opportunity to open a food truck park here where there are a bunch of businesses and a bunch of people living in this area. It was like a really good opportunity to hop on it and there are a bunch of food trucks who want to open, so why not hop on a lot that can provide those opportunities for more food trucks — and it’s year-round.”
Ordering food from the crepe food truck at midday Wednesday was Brandon Elton, who works at a nearby auto body shop, who said he’s come by “a handful of times” since the new food truck park opened.
“It is kind of weird, but it is kind of cool at the same time,” he said.
Larissa Dybdahl, one of the employees in the crepe food truck, said it’s a different experience than working in the downtown truck during peak tourism season.
“It’s a lot slower here. But steady,” she said. “We still get a lot of locals to come here.”
The winter weather has provided a few challenges, including wind that blew signboards away earlier during the week, Dybdahl said. But generally vendors and customers said conditions aren’t much of a deterrent.
“We have online orders set up so people can put in online orders and come grab their food and get in their car,” Madelynne McKeown said. “We also have buzzers and people just walk up in order, and they can go sit in their car and wait until their food’s ready. And Devils Hideaway brings people’s food out to them.”
Two customers ordering food from Devils Hideaway did indeed choose to wait in their vehicle until their food was brought out. Anthony Kanouse, owner of the food truck, said he’s generally tried to avoid downtown as a location except for big events, making the new park an ideal fit.
“There’s much more people, an active audience in the valley,” he said. “Between living out here and working out here it’s been a really nice mix of business. This area has definitely opened up for a lot of new businesses, so we just jumped on the opportunity when we were asked to come out here.”
Kanouse said he was operating at the Alaska Brewing Co. in Lemon Creek until the end of October, which is a busy as an industrial area as well as for shoppers going to stores such as Costco and Home Depot. But he said the current site — in the middle of Vintage Business Park, with numerous apartment and other residential complexes nearby — offers a more consistent and diverse neighborhood crowd.
“Here it seems like people can walk their dogs, have some coffee, have some food, take a rest and just it’s kind of a more of a recreational area instead of industrial,” he said. “So it’s so far, so good.”
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 957-2306.