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Food truck craze coming to Grand Rapids?

"The traditional classroom style was not the best way to teach this type of information ... Once the guys were able to see hands on what it meant to run a business using the food truck as a classroom, it completely changed what they thought," Harris said.
Steven Depolo
'What the Truck' food truck wants to operate in the City of Grand Rapids. Normally food trucks aren't allowed to set-up in Grand Rapids except for certain special events.

City planners in Grand Rapids are debating whether food trucks should be allowed in the city. Food trucks are becoming more popular thanks in part to TV shows like “The Great Food Truck Race”.

Dozens of restaurant owners united against the trucks at a public hearing today on proposed changes to the city’s ordinance. They argue the food trucks would hurt their businesses. They also point out the trucks won’t pay property taxes and say they could contribute to an increase in the number of empty storefronts downtown.

Patty Konwinski is a co-owner of The Dog Pit. The downtown hot dog restaurant employs 10 part-time workers. Konwinski says she’s not totally against food trucks, but she says there’s not enough foot traffic in Grand Rapids to support them.

“Other than restaurant and bar traffic we don’t have enough other events downtown yet,” Konwinski said, “We’ll get there, but we’re not there yet.”

Twenty-three-year-old entrepreneur Molly Clauhs bought a food truck over the summer. She doesn’t think restaurant owners should see her as the opposition.

“They should just be really thinking to themselves before they go to bed ‘maybe I should be doing this.’ Not thinking ‘forget those food trucks. They’re bad. They equal closed storefronts.’ No they don’t. They equal vibrancy.”

Clauhs has been allowed to operate her food truck, The Silver Spork, during special events in Grand Rapids. She says there is enough foot traffic to support both food trucks and sit-down restaurants.

Clauhs, other food truck owners and several supporters at the hearing argued food trucks serve people who don’t have time or money to sit-down at a restaurant to eat. They also say food trucks attract more people downtown.

City officials will take up the proposed rule change in the spring.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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