By Vicki Hillhouse
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Wash.
A new food truck park in the works for downtown Walla Walla gives new meaning to “cruise the gut.”
Developer Barbara Whatley has created a concept for “Gut Grub,” a one-stop shop for mobile food vendors.
Her vision is for 10 trucks, tents or booths in a shared space to make a singular destination for the mobile food vendors gaining traction in Walla Walla.
The site would be at 509 E. Main St. in a lot next to Bacon & Eggs, which created the original Food Truck Night gathering of mobile vendors.
Whatley praised owners Michelle Adams and Michelle Giannunzio for starting the local monthly gatherings last year.
Whatley said Friday she’s already had several verbal commitments from vendors, and several more inquiries have been made.
“The initial response to this idea has been amazing,” she said. “Several talented individuals who just need an affordable method to start up their business are suddenly inspired by this opportunity.
“In a way it could be like the incubators but for restaurants. ”
A timeline is not clear, though she does intend to be up and running at least by summer and hopes for it to be a permanent addition downtown.
Walla Walla City Manager Nabiel Shawa said the concept has worked well in other communities across the country. It could be another driving force for food sales and an added attraction for visitors.
“It adds energy and interest to our city and downtown, not to mention a wide variety of interesting, affordable quick eats,” Shawa said in an email.
“Food trucks provide budding entrepreneurs a less-intensive investment to get their business up and running. And given their mobility it helps support the myriad special events occurring throughout the Valley, which in turn helps drive our growing tourism economy.”
Whatley had originally planned a mixed-use two-story building for the property. She said her plans changed when the permit was delayed during the separation of the city and county’s Walla Walla Community Joint Development Agency. She’d hoped to build during the offseason to avoid disruption of the patio dining at Bacon & Eggs.
With the hangup, she said, she came up with another concept that could come together with minimal disruption.
And the name — Gut Grub — pays homage to the days when it was popular to “cruise the gut” in drives along Main Street.
The pad sites are 24-by-15 feet and will be set up for food and beverage sales only.
Vendors would pay a flat monthly rate. In return they’d get electricity and trash and recycling collection.
Also on-site will be restroom facilities, exterior lighting, picnic tables, a bike rack and parking. Special events could also include musical entertainment and theme nights.
“I foresee Gut Grub as being among the favorites for date night, family gatherings and for those on the go,” Whatley said in an email.
“The goal is to offer a consistent and reliable variety of foods at one destination.”
Vendors could determine how long they stay. Some will inevitably have commitments for catering that would require they use their mobility.
As a gateway location to downtown, the spot is an accessible hub for the business model and could be a showcase of a diverse food scene.
“With all of the local culinary talent, I am excited to offer a cost effective option for startups as well as a ‘home base’ for the established vendors with their cult-like followings,” Whatley said.