Food trucks are great in the summer, but who wants to stand outside in the freezing cold in the winter to order food, and where would you eat, anyway?
A Fort Wayne man has an idea he believes would extend food trucks’ business into the colder months, and he’s done some research to back up that idea.
TK Kelly wants to open a food truck park in an underserved area of the city — southeast Fort Wayne. He wants to create a gathering place to bring people together, and also hopes to reinvigorate the southeast side of Fort Wayne. “We currently have narrowed down our locations to two properties and look to have this in place by the end of June,” he said.
More than just a place for food trucks to gather en masse, Kelly wants to do what other cities such as Cleveland have done — build a pavilion with outdoor heaters and fire pits to extend the food truck season.
Imagine cozying up to a fire with cocoa, a steaming cup of coffee or a nice warm bowl of chili.
He entered his idea in the April 22 Fort Wayne SOUP competition. SOUP is an organization that raises funds for creative projects that enhance Fort Wayne living. Each quarter they choose four projects to feature in 4 minute online presentations. Kelly won April’s competition. He won $1,000, which he plans to use for attorney and branding fees as he gets his business started. You can watch his pitch at www.facebook.com/fortwaynesoup.
“We have a need here,” Kelly said. “Many (of the local food trucks) are sitting around for six months doing nothing.”
He said 98 mobile food licenses were issued here last year, a 28% increase over the year before, and that was during a pandemic.
Kelly is hosting a launch event 1-5 p.m. June 27 at Wunderkammer, 3402 Fairfield Ave. He says many of the food trucks that he expects to have in the park will be there, as well as music and beverages.
And more progress is being made. “Our team is currently setting up a website/landing page that should be available by the end of this week,” Kelly said. Inquiries can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of his vision, Kelly said he’s “looking to build the Disneyland of Fort Wayne on the south side of town...”
He says the south side of Fort Wayne needs this level of change. “My parents owned a home in Minneapolis six blocks from the George Floyd incident. My childhood home and that neighborhood is forever changed.”
He hopes the food truck park fosters a sense of inclusion. “This is my way of giving back to our community and is my ‘why’ I stayed in Fort Wayne.”
Kelly has 17 years of experience at seven locations around the country in food service operations, retail operations and special events. He most recently was manager of visitor services at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.