After this week, though, the courts at VHS will cease and two competing schedules have been introduced by Boka Truck’s Patrick Harris, who got the ball rolling on the courts last spring, and farmers market operator GrowRVA, which had partnered with Harris in organizing the courts.
Both Harris and GrowRVA founder Karen Atkinson say that their business and event-management styles did not mesh, so they have parted ways. Though the website they set up together, foodtruckcourt.com, still lists them both as sponsors, Atkinson says she’s no longer involved in that site.
In a flyer posted Aug. 24 on Twitter by RVA Food Truck Court (@FoodTruckCourt), Harris announced that the Tuesday and Friday evening courts would move starting Sept. 4 to 2512 E. Main St., home of Ronnie’s Ribs, Wings and Other Things, just east of Shockoe Bottom. Yesterday, Harris said that his line-up would continue the Wednesday courts at Chesterfield Towne Center and the Thursday courts at Hardywood. In addition, he plans a food truck court on Mondays at First Baptist Church on Monument Avenue, and he says he has organized a Food Truck Festival in the parking lot of the Short Pump Whole Foods store on Sept. 9 from noon to 6 p.m.
Also yesterday, Atkinson sent out GrowRVA’s fall food truck schedule, which consists of Wednesday evenings each week behind the Visual Arts Center (1812 W. Main St.); first Fridays at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (815 E. Grace St.) and at Visual Arts; the second Tuesday and third Friday of the month at the Science Museum of Virginia (2500 W. Broad St.), and the fourth Friday of the month at Visual Arts. Each of the courts will run from 5 to 8 p.m. Also planned is a Church Hill Neighborhood TruckaPalooza on Friday, Sept. 14, in the Robinson Theater Community Arts Center lot (2903 Q St.).
Atkinson says it will be up to the individual food trucks to decide where they want to go on any given night. She is asking the vendors to tell her which dates and locations they’re interested in. “I understand they need to do what’s best for their business,” she says, adding that she expects to know by tomorrow who will participate in which event. “For me, it’s similar to what I deal with at the farmers markets. It’s about promoting local and providing small business owners an opportunity.”
She says that the GrowRVA schedule is intended to coincide with other events, such as the First Fridays Art Walk, as well as activities at the Science Museum and Visual Arts Center.
“We’re trying to build community partnerships with entities here – places to go and things you can do with your families,” she says. The GrowRVA courts will also include music and wine and beer tastings, Atkinson adds.
Harris, meanwhile, says, "Our events are consistent and weekly. The vendors know they can rely on us and we will deliver, so we won't have a problem getting people signed on."
Joseph Andreoli, chef/owner of Dressed and Pressed, says he's excited about the new schedules and about the Richmond area's enthusiastic response to food trucks. "I've been at the Virginia Historical Society since the beginning of that," he says. "I never thought that I would open to serve and there's a line of 20 people waiting for dinner right from the beginning of the event, which was absolutely fantastic." As we talked, he was getting ready for tonight's court at Hardywood, where he'll be offering tempura fried chicken, Southern white pepper gravy and his signature white truffle tater tots.
When the new schedule starts, he says, he'll likely take his truck to Ronnie's Ribs. "Where it's located is almost perfect for a food truck court," he says. But he also plans to attend some GrowRVA events "to try to change things up."
Another vendor, Pizza Tonight owner Victoria DeRoche, says she’s leaning toward the GrowRVA schedule, but that she plans to continue participating in the food truck court at Hardywood — “it’s a very good event for all of us.” She’s uncertain at this point whether she’ll sign up for any Tuesday food truck courts.
“The change is kind of disconcerting to everybody,” she says of her fellow vendors. “They’ll follow where people want to go. It all depends on what makes a good venue and what doesn’t.”