Food trucks bring diversity to Brattleboro

Saturday June 22, 2013

In response to the front page article regarding all the food trucks popping up in Brattleboro and how the town wants to treat everyone the same ("Town serves up new food truck ordinance," June 18): In my opinion, it could have started without singling out Steve's Jamaican Food truck, which is already located in an industrial area. Why didn't the article name all the businesses involved? The article implies (we) Steve's Jamaican Food truck is not up to code and we are breaking the rules. This is simply not true.

We have a Brattleboro business license, a signage permit, a food service license, we are regularly inspected by the Vermont Department of Health and we have liability insurance, which is not cheap. So, how many more permits do we really need? The article also stated in Chapter 11 of the town's zoning regulations a food truck does not need a license to operate in Brattleboro, but that is incorrect; it clearly states we have to have one. The article addressed signage problems to protect pedestrians and drivers. We paid $40 for our signage permit to place a fold-up removable sandwich sign to advertise our business like any other business. Yet, the Planning Commission finds it acceptable and safe to allow people dressed up in costumes holding up huge signs flagging down drivers in high traffic areas to do so free of charge.

I question if the new rules will include those serving food at farmers' markets or flea markets? Their season is equal to ours yet they clearly do not have to follow any town or state guidelines. But we want to treat everyone fairly, right? Will the new changes affect food vendors at Living Memorial Park on holidays? Presently those vendors only need to show they have insurance. Shouldn't the welfare of our residents be considered when those from out of town or state are feeding our residents? Fair is fair.

I am hoping the Planning Commission will take into consideration that truck and cart vendors are small and do not make a ton of money. But what we can offer our community is some much needed diversity of quality food at a very minimal price. We are no threat to any restaurant that offers indoor seating, broader menus and year-round service.

Just like a restaurant, we pay rent and have overhead expenses, just not as much as a restaurant. We regularly serve many of the local restaurant owners and chefs; they enjoy our food and welcome the additional options we provide for visitors and locals alike.

In the short time that we have been in business we have had customers purchase signs for our truck free of charge, which tells us they want our business to prosper so we can afford to be here next year. Presently, we have a customer who recently was shopping at a flea market and saw two wooden statues from Jamaica, which they purchased for us to display because they love our food and service and wanted to show their appreciation.

We have been recognized in two Vermont magazines and have had letters written to the Reformer by our customers bragging about our food, low cost and service. Recently we received a call from a film crew in California telling us they will be filming in southern Vermont in the end of July and hired us to feed their cast. A couple of weeks ago a young man, who is a marketing student, purchased our food and while he was telling us how much he enjoyed our food and service another customer came back with flowers for us, stating the food made her feel so good she wanted to show her appreciation with flowers. This is the Brattleboro I know! This is the Brattleboro I have loved being a community member of for the past 30 years because we allow small businesses the opportunity to enjoy their lives doing what they love doing while networking with other local businesses. Most of our meats are from local farms and our vegetables are all organic. As much as we can, we keep our Vermont made money right here in Vermont.

Lastly, it is true that food trucks are popping up all around the country because, as in Brattleboro, rent is too high for a small business owner to provide quality fresh food at an affordable price. We would love to open up a restaurant but we can't afford it. We have yet to even make back our investment from our truck. We aren't in this business to become rich. Steve really loves to cook, so as a family we agreed to support him in this venture.

So, my point is, I am hoping that the town of Brattleboro will not make it too difficult for food trucks and cart vendors to do business here or restrict locations. We chose our location because it is in an industrial area; it's convenient to SIT Graduate Institute and hotels.

Brattleboro is in need of more cultural flare and should welcome more small businesses that create an environment that supports our love of community and diversity. I wish more vendors serving different ethnic foods would open up so as a community we can expand our wealth of knowledge about other cultures especially for those of us that can't afford to travel the world. There is enough room here for all of us.

Barbara Nichols, along with Steve, Shaneka and Mumzel Nichols, operates Steve's Jamaican Food, in the parking lot of the America's Best Inn on Putney Road in Brattleboro.


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