While Grand Rapids is not quite the food truck paradise one might find in Austin, Texas, or Portland, Oregon, strides are being made.
One of the people at the forefront of that charge is Alan Stone, president of GR Loves Food Trucks. Stone said downtown doesn’t yet have the pedestrian-friendly vibe needed to support food trucks on every corner. But it’s getting there. For now, a vibrant group of supporters is helping the small businesses thrive, and the potential is there for much more interaction.
A big piece of allowing the food trucks to shine without the mass of downtown customers is the variety of corporate catering gigs, fun events and supportive breweries and distilleries, Stone said.
The other piece? A push for events to highlight the food trucks and bring people out to see what they could be missing.
GR Loves Food Trucks begins its sixth season of Food Truck Fridays at Riverside Park on May 20. Every Friday until Sept. 2, between 12 and 17 food trucks will be available from 5-9 p.m. on a rotating basis.
Stone said more than 2,000 people show up each week to check out the choices.
Beyond that, Stone works with the city of Kentwood on the Kentwood Food Truck Festival, which will take place June 4 and Sept. 17 this year. The festival will bring 30-plus food trucks, a beer tent and music to Kentwood from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. on each of those Saturdays.
If those aren’t enough to quench food truck desires, and seeking them out in the wild is too difficult, the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association will host a festival May 22 at Calder Plaza with up to 40 food trucks.
While a hungry customer can waltz into any restaurant, food trucks can provide an easy way to try new cuisines or creative recipes, and more importantly, offer a more accessible way into business for talented entrepreneurs. Stone said each year before the COVID-19 pandemic, one or two food trucks would close, but another three or four would open. This year, he said there could be 15 opening.
“One of the things I love about food trucks is it’s the ultimate small business,” Stone said. “It really is a great way for people to start a small business.
“There are all sorts of diverse food offerings coming this way.”
This story can be found in the May/June 2022 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here.