Food trucks gain popularity in Alpena

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Aaron Smalley makes some poke bowls while at work in the 808 Bowlz food truck on Tuesday. Food trucks in the area offer a variety of menu items from Mediterranean food, poke, and American fare such as hamburgers and brats.

ALPENA — The popularity of food trucks in Alpena is on the rise, as people are beginning to flock to them to grab a quick meal or snack.

Owners and operators of the food trucks say they like the versatility and ease of operation the trailers offer, and the fact they are more cost efficient when compared to a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Not long ago, food trucks were scarce in the area, and the only time they were open was during large events such as the Fourth of July, the Alpena County Fair, and the Michigan Brown Trout Festival.

Now, almost daily, people can purchase Mediterranean food, poke (a sushi-like bowl with seafood, veggies and rice or noodles), and American fare such as hamburgers and brats.

Two of the primary food trucks, Sherwood Pita Wagon and 808 Bowlz, are open from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m daily at the new River Street Vault Food Park and Bar open in the park adjacent to Red Brick Tap and Barrel on River Street. Other food trucks, such as Fast Freddie’s and 32 Below, can be found in different parts of the city, including local beaches and parks.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The food trucks near Starlite Beach were busy on the Fourth of July, as people grabbed quick meals and snacks as they celebrated the holiday.

Sherwood Pita Wagon owner Richard Fischer said there are significant benefits to owning a food truck compared to a typical restaurant. He said because they are smaller, portable, and easier to manage, they offer more flexibility in the way they run.

“I can run a small staff and my overhead is incredibly low,” Fischer said. “I have the cost of gas and electricity and, really, that is about all. A food truck is easier to maintain, and the upkeep is easier than it is in a building. I think they are the wave of the future.”

Food trucks have been popular in other communities around Michigan for years, and some cities have designated specific parking lots or parks for them to open so customers don’t have to run around town to find out where they are, or what they have to offer in terms of food options.

So far, the River Street Vault Food Park and Bar is the only place that has dedicated trucks on the property, but Fischer said maybe someday there will be other places where food trucks can all be set up in one area.

Fischer said since he opened up his food truck late last summer, it was so well-received that it often ran out of product due to high demand. Since then, Fischer has loaded up on needed food and utilized more cooking space to meet demand. He said business continues to improve at the new location downtown, and believes as more people learn about his food, it will continue to grow.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Sherwood Pita Wagon owner Richard Fischer cooks up some meat for his pitas on Tuesday. Fischer said food trucks are more financially efficient to run and manage than a restaurant in a building.

It is likely that other food trucks will hit the streets in the coming years, Fischer said. He offered new owners some tips on what to do to get established.

“Keep your menu small, know your market, and having a good location is huge,” he said. “Keep your overhead small. You will be a small business, and if you let your overhead get out of hand, you’ll go under real fast.”

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz People enjoy lunch from the food trucks at the River Street Vault Food Park and Bar in downtown Alpena on Wednesday.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Susie Austin takes the food she ordered from Sherwood Pita Wagon on Tuesday. Food trucks are becoming a popular dining choice for people in Alpena.


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