Written by The Business Journal Staff
Fresno’s food truck scene is in full swing this spring, with vendors adding new hours and locations to their community schedules.
Many trucks are entering their sophomore year on the circuit and owners say they are encouraged by the continued support of local customers.
“This is our second full season since we shut down in the winter. We just started doing downtown events and it’s been really neat to see the community spirit come alive,” said Denise Beintker, owner and operator of Sno Café.
The dessert truck specializes in snoballs, finely shaved ice formed around a scoop of ice cream, and uses flavored syrups from New Orleans. The treat originated in the South but Beintker said she’s enjoyed exposing the trend to the local community.
Top flavors include “chocolatey mint,” Georgia sunset, piña colada and the truck’s signature “orange creamsicle,” which includes a scoop of vanilla ice cream inside orange flavored shaved ice.
Already, the truck has built a loyal following from its appearances at Gazebo Gardens and Enzo’s Table, and Beintker said she was encouraged to expand the operation this year.
Sno Café recently added Downtown’s Thursday CArt Hop events to its schedule and plans to make frequent appearances at Eaton Plaza near the Fresno water tower throughout the spring and summer. The food truck also worked last week’s Big Hat Days in Clovis, and Beintker said she hopes to continue mixing larger events with the truck’s weekly schedule.
“I want to be supportive of Fresno. I lived here my whole life and it’s really nice to be a part of building this new identity within the community,” she said.
Operators of the rock-n-roll themed Flat Bottom Grills agree, saying the community’s loyal support of the growing food truck scene encouraged them to expand their operations this season.
“We’ve been operating for nine months, five of which have been at Eaton Plaza downtown,” said Chris Jorgensen, co-owner of the food truck. “We’re also doing stuff at Gazebo Gardens, Enzo’s Table and have worked a lot with Tioga-Sequoia Brewery on the events they have over there.”
The food truck is largely inspired by legendary rock band Queen and features an assortment of sandwiches, tacos and pita wraps all made with local ingredients. Jorgensen and co-owner Josh Stout said they also like to feature artwork by local artists and will display smaller pieces on the outside of their truck wherever they set up.
So far, the response to the business has been good and the two are hopeful the food truck industry will become a key piece of Fresno’s identity.
“With this new food truck scene there’s this new interest in food and culture here in the area,” Stout said. “As more people become interested and start attending these events, it really shows that we’re going to grow and help make a name for the industry in the community.”
Fresno’s mobile business scene is even starting to expand beyond the classic food truck template, with veteran boutique retail shop Dear Danger establishing regular hours and an entirely new shopping truck on the horizon.
Dear Danger hit the streets last summer as the region’s first mobile boutique. The concept has already taken off in larger markets like the Bay Area and Los Angeles, and is similar to a pop-up market.
Owner Lindsay Howard, also known as Lindsay Danger, said she’s learned a lot form her customers the last few months and has begun to stock the truck to better reflect the local fashion taste.
“I’m definitely learning a lot about my customers and I enjoy getting their feedback,” she said. “I’ve learned to stock more plus-size options and I’m exploring more styles that my customers seem to really respond to.”
Her following has steadily grown, and she now appears at weekly CArtHop events along the Mariposa Plaza in Downtown Fresno. The steady hours have helped expose the business to a larger crowd and Howard said her customers like knowing where to find her in case they are looking for a certain item or have an exchange.
“It’s a different crowd down here on the mall during the workweek versus on the weekends. People are getting used to me out here during the week while on weekends, they might still be learning about the truck and what we have to offer,” she said.
Howard said she has also been encouraged by the steady growth within Fresno’s mobile vendor scene and recently heard from another business owner interested in starting a boutique truck.
“I’ve been talking with her a little bit about the idea and giving advice on the truck,” she said. “It’s really exciting and eventually I’d like to see five or six of us just setting up somewhere for the day. The idea is to create this whole sort of mobile shopping experience.”
Since Fresno’s mobile vendor rules mainly pertain to food trucks, having another clothing truck would help raise awareness and potentially lead to a more specific permitting process, she said.
“It’s still an issue being the only boutique truck around sometimes,” Howard said. “That was kind of the case for the food trucks for a while too, but now there’s more of them and things have worked out. I’m looking forward to another mobile store opening so then there’s two of us at least and we can kind of go through this together.”