Only in Salem... we finally get support for a vibrant Food Truck Scene after a restrictive city ordinance is loosened up.
But now some downtown restaurants have forced Fusion, a Vietnamese food truck, to leave its spot in the alley behind the Reed Opera House.
Where Fusion operated for a whole freaking 4 hours a week!
Deeply irritating. For those of us who want downtown Salem to be cooler. For the evolving food truck industry in this town. And naturally, most of all for Fusion.
Here's what happened, as reported in a recent Facebook post:
Due to restaurants "raising their voices" - this is the last day Fusion will be in downtown Salem. So frustrating that downtown Salem has become a place where a food truck gets pushed out of being here just 4 hours a week. It's a shame. Restaurants were feeling so threatened - they "convinced" the property owner to "ask" Fusion to "move along". Support food trucks, support diversity in our cuisine, support people starting up a business and chasing their dreams! Follow @salemfoodtrucks for news, specials and reviews.
I don't know which downtown restaurants were threatened by Fusion. However, last September I wrote a blog post, "Some downtown Salem restaurants may try to keep out food carts." Excerpt:
Today a Facebook post clued me in to a worrisome possibility: some restaurants in downtown Salem might attempt to keep food carts from establishing a long-term "pod" in the area. Or maybe even ban temporarily positioned carts.
...This seems really dumb to me, a few restaurants trying to stifle dining competition from food carts in Salem's urban core.
I was at a city council meeting where representatives of Venti's, Gamberetti's, and Napoleon's (will be re-opening its crepe cafe soon) testified that they feared losing business to downtown food carts.
Whoever the restaurants are, they need to rethink their irrational opposition to food carts in downtown Salem.
Last Tuesday I had to get my Mini Cooper serviced in Portland. Instead of waiting at the dealership, I asked for a ride to downtown. Chatting with the pleasant shuttle driver, I said that I was a vegetarian and needed some lunch.
"Oh, you should go to the 10th Street Food Truck pod. It's a whole block of food trucks. I recently had some great Indonesian food there."
I took her advice. And had an excellent veggie meal from the Rolling Gourmet Fusion food truck. The shuttle driver was right: food trucks lined the entire 10th and Alder block, all four sides.
Downtown Portland restaurants also are thriving. Here's an excerpt from my Strange Up Salem column, "Embrace downtown food carts."
Food carts are a big success in Portland, drawing national acclaim from Bon Appétit magazine and CNN. So what’s not to like about having a vibrant food cart scene everywhere in Salem, including downtown?
Nothing. But to some people here change is scary even when it is for the better. Diversity, creativity, more eating options… Eek!
At the July 14 city council meeting I was surprised to hear several councilors and restaurant owners talk about their Big Fear that people would flock to a downtown food cart pod and — oh no, the horror — enjoy eating there!
Theoretically, possibly, just maybe, the worry was that some of these people might choose a quick and easy food cart meal over a sit-down restaurant offering.
Well, this is called competition and free enterprise.
Even in the People’s Republic of Portland, where downtown food cart pods harmoniously coexist with restaurants. On SW 9th and Alder there are more than 60 food carts; on SW 4th and Hall, 25 food carts.
A post on the Fusion Facebook page nailed the problem with whatever Salem restaurants are threatened by downtown food trucks/carts. It quotes Bert Gall, an attorney who is the "patron saint of food trucks."
If you need protection from a food truck, maybe you weren't a great restaurant to begin with.
Hopefully Fusion will be back in business soon downtown, along with other Salem food trucks. They don't pose a threat to downtown restaurants. But even if they did, so be it: that's what competition is all about.
I'll share some Facebook comments in reaction to the Fusion-kicked-out news as a continuation to this post. It's pretty damn clear that downtown food trucks have a lot of support from Salemians.
Such bullshit. Maybe if the downtown restaurants feel threatened by the brief presence of a food truck, they should worry about stepping up their kitchen game.
I live in the Arts building, and I am also a downtown bar owner. I support the food trucks. If there's a vote or petition, please keep me informed.
I occupy a commercial space in the building you were parked behind today. I used that entrance to haul gear in and out and paused to appreciate the risk you take in doing what you're doing, Fusion. I'll stop short of calling you a hero but something akin to that seems appropriate. Cool. How about cool? I wasn't hungry at the time but I liked the vibe. This city of ours is going through some changes. I'm sorry that you are being treated like a guinea pig while we find our footing but I sincerely look forward to a day, soon, that will support this whole thing.
This is so disappointing! I want to know what restaurants complained... So I can stop supporting them.
This is such typical Salem. It's time to expand our horizons and open our eyes, as well as taste buds, to something new.
While I had never eaten at Fusion, I agree that this is bullshit. Most of the restaurants downtown serve nothing but over priced garbage (IMO) and I have never once been disappointed by any food truck ever. We honestly need an area for all the food trucks to get together like they do in Portland. I call them food truck parks.
Which businesses did that? Those will no longer be frequented.
Crap, crappy, crap, crap!! Not OK!! Damn it. I will have to work harder to get sweet balls!!
Ummm, Salem, wake up. Food trucks have taken a hold in every city in North America. Brick and mortar food shops( restaurants pubs hotels grocery ) pay the same licenses and taxes for their chosen business models. Just because a new model came along and is popular does not give you an inherent right of protectionism. Get better at what you do people or someone else will.
Who are the restaurants complaining? A boycot could be in order.
Long story short.....don't live in Salem
Salem at its finest.. 1 step forward 2 steps back...
Downtown is a shameful pit of what it once was
Fear is what drives the ignorant. Fusion should stay!!!
What? It's just a food truck. Why are they being asked to leave? They haven't done anything wrong or taken business away from anyone.
There was a time that I truly loved downtown and all that it offered...
I lived there and owned a business there.
It breaks my heart that between parking issues, increased tax for the core, and the growing attitude that downtown should be a closed unit, further limiting it from developing it's own culture based on the needs and wants of the patrons of downtown.... we are slowing killing our own downtown, the heartbeat of the entire city.
The city itself is providing the poison for it's own demise.
Fusion, I would like to know what exactly happened with your being asked to move along. I believe I should have a say about that kind of thing when you are parking on the property where I lease space from. Please post who said what to you? It's not gossip. It's relevant.
Some of the best food I've had came from a food truck!! Food trucks are amazing!!
I really like food carts. I also dislike the diversity of food choices in Salem. The town is not crowded at all, instead it sometimes feels like a ghost town. There's plenty of room.
Such a shame. If you think a Food Truck is going to put you under you need to take a long hard look at your business plan. Very sorry to hear this. The more business downtown is just that, more business downtown.
You have my full support.
Building manager of Salem Arts Building is Ben Pruitt. I think it would be great if people contacted him and expressed their unhappiness.
Really? Maybe the local restaurant owners should focus on being better than a food truck if they're so worried about it. What a load of bollocks.
(BTW, Fusion is awesome)
Jervis Tetch, im not sure what fond distant memories you have twisted out of focus but Salem or "so lame" has been this way forever. Nothing will change. Ever.
Free enterprise? Only if "the man" doesn't whine.
that is bullshit. come on salem its time we get on board and let our city grow and new things are good
Salem Sucks, Period.
Ok that sucks, let's push all small Buisness out of the area, Salem cronyism needs to go...
I haven't had a minute to try this food cart out, but I definitely would like to. I do know this alley very well and it gets congested often. I think we need a place for food carts downtown like this for sure. With spring pretty much at our doorstep, maybe Fusion and some of the other food carts could work together with the downtown Wednesday market to do their thing during that time. At least they could get more exposure. Soon there will be tons of people going to the Riverfront Park so somewhere close to there would be awesome! Under the bridge next to the Gilbert house maybe?
I think in a way Food Trucks may bring more customers to the Brick&Mortars bc it will attract more people to downtown who may choose the option to "eat in" when they see what is available.
So wrong. Salem needs more diversity. Fusion has delish food!
Salem is a joke.
This is sad. A selection of food trucks in downtown Salem would be amazing. It's hard to imagine that some restaurants would feel threatened by these. It's kind of like camping vs staying in a hotel. Two very different things - both good.