PRINCETON — Food trucks are here to stay and the community of Princeton has got to adapt to their business model and find an even playing ground for both them and brick and mortar businesses.
It’s not going to be an easy task for the Princeton City Council as it may take a few tries at passing an ordinance, and possibly even a sit down meeting with brick and mortar businesses and food truck vendors to find that even ground.
After hearing feedback from the community, Princeton’s food truck ordinance proposed earlier this month will not be the final say in how food trucks are regulated on city property. Revisions are being made and are likely to be reviewed at the next council meeting on May 3.
The city council met Monday evening and while it took no action on the food truck ordinance, it heard from several attendees who showed up to voice their support and concerns for food trucks.
Among the supporters was Barrel Society owner Nick Gorogianis, who is well-known for his weekend food truck schedule in Princeton. In the last year, food trucks have been setting up in front of his establishment on Main Street where they have attracted out-of-town customers, but have also raised concerns of nearby brick and mortar business owners who feel food trucks are taking away from Princeton businesses.
Gorogianis said his idea of bringing in food trucks was never meant to hurt other businesses. It was a way to revamp his business model during a tough time last year when COVID hit. He’s watched the popularity of the food trucks grow over time and said they now bring people from miles away who not only spend money at his business, but other businesses on Main Street.
Gorogianis said most of the vendors love doing business in Princeton, have an interest in becoming a Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce member and want to be more established in the area.
Three other attendees at Monday’s meeting spoke in favor of Gorogianis and his food truck schedule. Jim Lilley said Gorogianis has a specialty business, contributes a lot of tax money to the city, pays fees for the food trucks to set up in Princeton and backed up the notion that his food truck schedule is attracting people to the area.
“It’s the type of business Princeton needs,” he said, speaking of Barrel Society.
Sallee Zearing, owner of Flour House Bakery, also spoke in favor of food trucks and brought up one concern in the current ordinance that restricts food trucks from operating during Homestead Festival weekend to avoid competition with service groups.
Zearing said the weekend draws in a huge influx of people that brick and mortar restaurants have a difficult time keeping up with. While her bakery is not equipped to keep up with the influx, she said she’d be more than happy to share the business influx with the vendors to help meet the demands of customers that weekend. She urged that food trucks be allowed to set up during Homestead Festival as there is “plenty of business that weekend to go around.”
Zearing also pointed out that in today’s capitalistic economy, competition is inherent and creates innovation. She added food trucks sometimes serve as incubators for business owners who move into brick and mortar businesses.
As for Facebook and the turmoil surrounding food trucks and other issues on social media, Zearing urged Quiram to disarm the commenting on his mayor Facebook page and instead encourage them to share feedback with him or other city council members directly or participate in city council meetings. She said the Facebook page leads the people into unnecessary community chatter.
“Facebook is not the appropriate place for discussion and I truly believe it spreads mass amounts of misinformation and mass amount of negativity that is not good for our town morale,” she said.
Most will agree that Facebook has fueled a lot of negativity toward both food trucks and brick and mortar businesses in the last month. Some of that negativity has sparked comments about certain businesses directly, just one for example is Flo’s on Pulaski, which owner Sharon Glynn, spoke about during Monday’s meeting. Glynn was emotional when she spoke about the negative comments fueled on Facebook about her business, saying, “They’re cruel” and “It hurts.”
Glynn was a voice for food truck owners saying it never was their intention to take away anyone’s business.
“We’re not here to hurt anybody. We want to help you grow,” she said.
Glynn explained how food trucks have served as a relief for restaurants during the pandemic as they’re easier to operate out of and customers seem to be more appreciative of that kind of business experience over eating in a restaurant, plus they feel safer getting food from a food truck rather than a restaurant during the pandemic. She said the carry-out gig in restaurants right now is also a difficult one to operate and a lot of businesses are turning to food trucks.
“They’re going to blow up. They’re not going anywhere. Everyone has to adapt to the new norm,” she said.
Karen Townsend, owner of The Downtown Pub, said, “It does not have to be this way.”
While she is a brick and mortar business owner, she urged that she’s not against food trucks or the competition. It forces businesses to grow, she said. Townsend just wants to be sure it’s fair and makes sense for everyone.
“We all work hard. We all really care about our businesses. We care about our friends right next door and we want them all to succeed,” she said. “We’re just all trying to survive.”
The city council meets again at 7 p.m. May 3. At that meeting a revised copy of the food truck ordinance is likely to be submitted to the city council for a first reading. Public comment session will be available before the council votes on the revised ordinance. It should also be noted that two new city council members, Mike McCall and Marty Makransky, will be seated at the start of the meeting and will be fresh eyes on this issue.
Source: The Daily Chronicle