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Cities changing the food truck industry

The Monsta Lobsta and La Empanada food trucks join other area trucks at the new Winter Park Food Truck Stop on Orlando Avenue.

The Monsta Lobsta and La Empanada food trucks join other area trucks at the new Winter Park Food Truck Stop on Orlando Avenue.

Sarah Wilson

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Learn more

• The Winter Park Food Truck Stop, 1127 N. Orlando Ave. in Winter Park, is open for food trucks 24/7. Visit http://tinyurl.com/FoodTruckStop.

• Food Truck Café at Lake Lily Park in Maitland is every Wednesday night from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. visit http://tinyurl.com/FoodTruckCafe

• Eat More Produce, 1111 S. Orlando Ave. in Winter Park, hosts a food truck pod every Thursday except the first Thursday of the month. Visit eatmoreproduce.com

• Audubon Park Elementary School’s first food truck event will be 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, at the school. Contact Jamie.weiss@ocps.net

Winter Park and Maitland have hopped aboard the food truck craze and are now paving the way for the use of the mobile eateries in the future.

The Central Florida-area’s first stationary stop — a parking lot dedicated to housing food trucks for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week — just opened between Winter Park and Maitland. With local schools and churches using food trucks for fundraising and food truck meet-ups on the grow, the local food truck trend doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

“Just since March, when I started following local food trucks, we’ve seen the number of trucks in the Central Florida/Orlando area grow from just four to over 50,” said Jay Brabbs, owner of the Silver Bistro food truck. “It’s something that’s changing constantly in both food and the number and types of events.”

All this talk and growth has local property owners, cities and schools looking to capitalize on the food fun on wheels.

The truck stops here

What was just two months ago a large, empty, gravel parking lot has come alive in recent weeks with the presence of food trucks.

Ravaudage developer Dan Bellows, the owner of the lot near the intersection of Orlando Avenue and Lee Road in Winter Park, said he saw a need, a want and a service he could provide and went with it, now using the property — deemed the Winter Park Food Truck Stop — as a permanent parking spot for food trucks.

“What we’ve basically built is an RV lot for food trucks,” Bellows said. Trucks can rent out spaces in the lot on a month-to-month basis and use the space to set up shop for customers any day or time during the week. Bellows said he is currently at full capacity, with all 21 available spots rented out after just two weeks of business.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Brabbs, who rents a spot at the stop. “It was kind of slow to start off, but I think through word of mouth it’s got the potential to keep growing.”

Thursday nights are the main event at the Winter Park Food Truck Stop, when all the trucks gather at once. The first weeks of the event boasted live music acts on the lot’s two new raised stages and muscle cars brought out for show from local collectors.

Bellows also owns Tom & Jerry’s Lounge, which shares the food truck lot and serves no food, only alcohol. He said the location provides the added bonus of a fully stocked bar available for those visiting the food trucks.

“Every single thing the food trucks or their customers could need is right here,” Bellows said.

Brabbs said he and the other trucks use social media to send out blasts to their followers letting them know their weekly schedules. He said there are 10 trucks currently meeting for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“We’re hoping we can make this into a destination for people looking for a different type of place to go for lunch,” he said.

Events stay strong

Already reaching destination status in the area, the Food Truck Café at Lake Lily and the Eat More Produce Food Truck Pod have continued to garner steady business.

In October, the Maitland Lake Lily Event was forced to switch from Tuesday to Wednesday nights for the sake of finding accommodating parking for all the people coming out, said Mari Smith, special events coordinator for the city.

Troy Gage, co-owner of Eat More Produce in Winter Park, which hosts a food truck pod every Thursday except the first Thursday of the month, said there’s plenty of traffic coming through their event, despite the Winter Park Food Truck Stop holding events on the same night. He said he believes holding the food truck events weekly instead of every day works better for his idea of what food trucks are for.

“That’s the beauty of those food trucks, that they can move around and are at one place one night and another place another night, they can kind of build their niche,” he said. “But if they’re always in the same spot, who knows, right? … It’s not like people are going to eat at food trucks every single night.”

Food for a cause

Jamie Weiss, curriculum compliance director at Audubon Park Elementary School, saw

food trucks as more than just fun, and also as a great avenue for fundraising. On Saturday, Jan. 7., from 4 p.m.-8 p.m., the school will host it’s first food truck family fun event to raise money for the school. Each truck will pay an upfront fee to participate, Weiss said, and will donate a percentage of its profit from the event back to the school. The idea, he said, came from major success the school had previously in bringing out the Yum Yum Cupcake Truck to its open house.

“We decided it would be a really unique, creative way to have a fundraiser,” Weiss said.

The school has 10 trucks signed up to participate in the event.

“It’s not just like you’re just making a donation,” co-owner of the Yum Yum Cupcake Truck Joey Conicella said. “You’re buying food, which is in turn supporting a local business and then in return, the business is giving back a percentage of their sales to public education.”

Conicella said quite a few other schools and local churches have contacted him to host similar events since word of the Audubon Park event has gotten out.

“There’s really no other thing that’s going on in Orlando right now that’s bringing out this many people in the community, so to harness that popularity and then do something good with it is kind of a fun idea,” he said.