Food Trucks in Longmont Serve Up Good Eats and Good Times
Once upon a time, the lowly food truck was the bastion of construction workers, city dwellers, and others with limited time, but no more. These days food trucks are more fun than functional and for
folks looking for a moveable feast, Longmont is heaven on wheels.
The appeal of food trucks has been has been on the rise for more than a decade and with good reason. Across the nation, many of the rolling kitchens have transformed from greasy to gourmet and gained a following of foodies along the way.
It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the love of food trucks eventually parked itself in Longmont. It all started about three years ago with the griddled tacos and gorditas of the Comida truck.
“I was literally the first food truck when I started,” said restaurant entrepreneur Rayme Rossello, who helped start Proto’s pizza before she bought the hot pink truck. “I really did want to start a restaurant. I thought a food truck would be more manageable. I had no idea it was going to make me cry for the first year.”
The tears were tears of frustration. Rossello had a great food, an amazing truck, and—as a native of New York—a good sense of the business. What she didn’t have was Boulder County’s blessing to operate it.
“The biggest challenge was having a food truck and no way to license it,” Rossello said. “They didn’t know what provision to put food trucks under, so they just said no.”
If Rossello had taken that no for an answer, Longmont might have a very different food truck ratio today. Instead, she worked through the bureaucracy and about a year later, she—and everyone else—was ready to hit the road.
In what may have been a turn of food truck karma, it wasn’t long before Rossello found an opportunity to open a stationary version of Comida in Prospect. Soon she’ll have a Denver location, as well. Even with two brick-and-mortar businesses, however, the truck is still cruising—and more likely to keep heading down the road because of them.
“The food truck alone didn’t work,” Rossello said. “We really had a to make a living $3 at a time. Now the restaurant feeds the food truck and the truck is this really great extension of the restaurant.”
Oskar Blues gets similar roaming-restaurant use out of its truck, the Bonewagon. The difference is that the Oskar Blues brand was firmly in place before they began pounding the pavement. That helped their barnstormin’ smokateria, as the truck is called, avoid some common the pitfalls of the food truck business—especially trying to build brand recognition while constantly on the move.
“This was basically an up and coming thing and we wanted to throw our hat into the ring,” said Bonewagoneer Bart Dickerson. “That’s been a big blessing, having the OB label on there.”
The Bonewagon makes about 21 stops a week and can also be found anywhere from weddings to golf tournaments to festivals. Because it’s everywhere, it’s great advertising for the brick-and-mortar locations too, Dickerson said.
“You’re basically driving a big billboard around,” he said. “It helps us reach out to people.”
For smaller vendors without storefronts, though, reaching out is just one of many roadblocks to running a food truck. Others include gasoline and generator fuel costs, commissary fees, truck maintenance, event fees, and finding places to set up shop. Owners also have to get creative when the weather starts to cool off.
“We make a lot of money with the festivals in the summer, but that’s only a short time.” said Tracy Ray, who started the pork-centric A Savour Affair earlier this year. “Right now, I’m trying to get into beer dinners at local breweries. That’s my winter plan.”
Obstacles aside, a food truck can be on the road for about a quarter of the cost it takes to open a traditional restaurant. Perhaps that’s why Boulder county mobile vendor permits jumped from just over a hundred in 2011 (when they were first offered) to more than 150 at last count just this year.
“We have seen an increase in the number of mobile units over the last several years,” wrote Lane Drager of Boulder County Public Health. “It would be fair to say that the number in Longmont hasgrown during that time.”
Not surprisingly, it’s hard to pin down just how many trucks are operating in Longmont on a given day. Longmont, though, is a better place than most to hitch up a food wagon.
Not only does the have a wealth of mobile food vendors, it also boasts two weekly truck-centered events—Prospect Eats in the Prospect neighborhood and the Food Truck Fest at Twin Peaks Mall.
Both events feature live music and a fleet of trucks dishing out everything from tacos to falafel to outrageously topped waffles. With throngs of people eating and having fun, it’s like a culinary fair twice a week.
“It’s great, everybody is smiling and it’s a great vibe,” said Kevin Curtis, who coordinates the Prospect event with his wife, Sarah. “It’s like having a big
family picnic every Monday.”
Prospect Eats, which is held in the neighborhood’s Downtown Park, was blazing a food truck festival trail when it started three years ago. Then it was to way to bring people into the community and call attention to businesses, Curtis said.
Today it draws anywhere from 900 to 1,500 people in good weather and provides a service to both customers and vendors.
“[Food truck owners] are always trying to find a good venue, and its not easy,” Curtis said. “We’re lucky we have the location we do, it’s kind of idyllic.”
Jeremy Easton, who owns the Waffle Cakes truck with his wife Robyn, couldn’t agree more—that’s why he decided to start the Twin Peaks Food Truck Fest. While Waffle Cakes is a staple of the Prospect event, there’s still a need for Longmont vendors to keep it local, he said.
“I love Prospect,” he said. “But it’s only one night a week. We’re Longmont residents but at one point we were doing 80 percent of our business in Denver.”
Easton, who runs Waffle Cakes in addition to his full-time job, began looking around for another venue that would keep his waffles closer to home. He got clearance to rally the trucks on mall grounds earlier this year. Response has been good, and Easton said the event will continue—possibly elsewhere—even when the mall revamp begins.
He doesn’t profit from his organizing (vendor fees go toward the costs of hosting live music and other expenses) so it’s as much a labor of love as anything else—and in that he’s not alone.
“It truly is heart and soul that make these trucks run,” said Dickerson. “It’s about people believing in making great food. They were once known as roach coaches. They’re not that anymore.”
– Story by Jolie Breeden – Photos by David Jennings