Last night on the second floor of Grand Prize, thirty food truck owners gathered in a neat circle. There were no icebreakers or trust exercises, but the loose affiliation of business owners was definitely there to build their community, complete with inspiring speeches. The meeting, which was the sixth of its kind and has grown to include more participants with each iteration, was called to discuss OKRA membership, strategies for tackling barriers to business and to simply offer up tips and free location spots.
Matt Marcus and Ryan Soroka from the Eatsie Boys, Sean Carroll from Melange Creperie, Guli Essa from It's A Wrap and representatives the the Modular, Good Dog, Fusion Taco, Bernie's Burger Bus, H-town Streats and newcomers Wing Express, Flaming Patties and Bare Bowls were just a few in the crowd.
Joanna Torok of Oh My! Pocket Pies was the first to take the floor after introductions, encouraging those present to join the Google group and, despite any frustration with current regulations, to stay "clean and perfect" to paint a better picture of a group that struggles to fight unfair stereotypes as unsanitary, unruly and bad for brick and mortar businesses.
Those often confusing regulations include having to park no less than 60 feet from another truck according to the fire marshall, or no less than 100 feet if you're asking the Health Department. The owner of Papou Jerry's, now located outside the West Alabama Icehouse, had recently gone to pay for a permit only to find that the price had gone up, only none of the city employees knew what the new price was.
Joshua Martinez of The Modular spoke up to suggest that truck owners pay the $50 membership fee to join OKRA. Already a member himself, Martinez explained that the organization would give food trucks a stronger platform from which to negotiate changes to laws that place unfair burdens on small businesses.
The group has had some success already. Truck owners no longer have to acquire a propane permit for every location they stop at--now they only need one. There's hope that sometime in the future, trucks will be able to open at Park N' Ride locations to offer food to commuters.
The meeting ended on a high note. "We're here to stay, to be part of the community. We want to be able to do more and show more of our skills," said Oh My! Pocket Pies owner Joe Phillips. "Let's have a great year!"