Man, I'm blown away by the support Salemians have for food trucks in this town -- judging by the reactions to my "So Salem: downtown restaurants kick out a food cart" post.
Crazy -- some downtown restaurants felt so threatened by the Fusion food truck, they got it kicked out from an alley behind the Reed Opera House. I really like food trucks. Hopefully Fusion will return to downtown soon. Even more: we need a whole freaking food truck pod in the city center!
The response was pretty damn amazing.
Because I like food trucks a lot, and view them as sort of an "indicator species" of Salem's cultural coolness, I forked out $15 to Facebook to make the Strange Up Salem posting available to more folks.
Here's the results so far after three days.
15,016 people reached
90 comments and replies
Most of the comments are strongly supportive of food trucks, both in downtown Salem and elsewhere. Quite a few people thought there's no reason for restaurants in the urban core to be wary of food trucks, since they draw more people to the area, and that's good for all businesses.
Over on the Fusion Facebook page, I resonated with BrIan Hart's comment. My feelings exactly.
Dear local brick and mortar restaurants, yes I am a big food truck advocate, yes I am very excited to see them in Salem, including downtown...
but NO I WILL NOT FORGET YOU or stop supporting you when this happens. This is a promise.
I get hungry many times every day and my mood and tastes varies. Please have faith in me and your community and know that there will be plenty to go around. Anything that adds to Salem's culture, flavor and diversity is a good thing.
“The rising tide lifts all the boats.” - JFK
Fusion's own response to the controversy also struck me as wisely gracious.
Just our thoughts on this unfortunate situation.
As we love to feel the suport, and see the community rallying together, we'd like to remind you, that these restaurants are also local businesses trying to stay afloat. Though we don't agree with how they're going about "protecting" themselves, we understand just trying to make ends meet.
All local businesses deserve the support of the community. If we all work together, we can create a diverse community where everyone can thrive! There is enough business for everyone, and as we provide to different needs, we don't understand the issue of location. Change can be scary, but will happen regardless of the friction.
I think we should all just help Salem morph into the city we want to live in as smoothly as possible, and try to keep it more local than corprate. So please support and live local as much as possible!
We do intend to speak on this topic at city hall, and try to nip this friction in the bud before it gets out of hand. We would appreciate any and all support in this endeavor. Watch for dates and times and come lend your voice, or silent support.
Thank you, FUSION
Venti's restaurants got some criticism from commenters on my Strange Up Salem posting because of Dino Venti's concerns about downtown food trucks that he expressed at a City Council meeting last year. Representatives from The Wild Pear, Gamberetti's, and Napoleon's also told the council that they feared losing business to food trucks.
In response, Venti's put up a "Dear Salemites" message on their web site. (Note: a respected authority -- me, in my own mind at least -- has decreed that the proper name for residents of this town is Salemians, not Salemites. Heed his/my words, Salemians!)
On the one hand, the message is supportive of food trucks.
Truthfully, we love Fusion. Dino and Leslie, and Conrad and Kari seek them out on a frequent basis. Their product is excellent! We would love to see the Salem food cart owners and operators build a following that will allow them to expand to whatever may be in their plans and goals, be it a brick & mortar or an army of food trucks.
But it ends with some caveats about downtown food trucks that I don't agree with.
The challenge with locating a food pod in the downtown core is that there is still plenty of room for growth within the many buildings and vacant spaces downtown. Comparing Salem’s ability to sustainably support a food cart pod downtown to Portland’s ability is an unfair comparison.
...Food carts are certainly part of Salem being awesome, but we also see the many obstacles the downtown core may face if a pod is operating downtown.
So the debate/discussion about downtown food truck continues. Which is good. It's way better to get concerns out in the open, than to let them fester beneath the surface.
Personally, I'd love to see a permanent food truck pod in the downtown area.
It'd be a great eating option for everybody, but perhaps particularly for vegetarians like me. There aren't many, if any, grab-and-go places downtown where I can quickly get some tasty healthy food that never had a face.