By LEXI THAYER
ATLANTA — Food trucks are popping up all around big cities, but if one is looking for a spin on food trucks, then hold on tight.
The Atlanta Food Truck Park, which was established in 2012 by Sweet Auburn BBQ food truck owner Howard Hsu, is open for business. Families, friends and couples line up along the food trucks to indulge in barbecue, jambalaya or whatever their hearts desire.
The park’s four-acre location was originally an old hotel site The park offers a place to gather with friends, family and significant others.
With the park in its fifth year, locals and non-locals gather to make connections over food.
Bringing the community together
Food trucks are necessary because they bring the community together, said Atlanta Food Truck Park owner Tan Bowers.
“The concept of the Atlanta Food Truck Park is to create a small platform where families and couples enjoy each other’s company,” Bowers said. “The park has a very laid-back feel and is a great location to bring a small or large gathering. Open air dining is fun and people enjoy being able to eat under the rays of the sun or the twinkle of the stars.”
Alan Gorman and his girlfriend explained they do not like going to busy places like a restaurant. Gorman does not like being a part of big crowds, so that’s why he and his girlfriend chose to attend the food truck park instead, he said.
“It’s different,” said Gorman. “It isn’t the same things.”
The Atlanta Food Truck Park’s emphasis on community separates it from other parks.
The large facility provides long picnic tables, fire pits, a playground area, a covered stage and cool cafe lights locals and non-locals enjoy, which other parks may not have.
“Out here, you’re outside, and you can experience nature, but you’re in the city,” said Kristian Johnson, owner of Bailey Grace Boutique .
The collectiveness of the park keeps people coming back, Johnson said. The experience patrons feel should be welcoming as they get something special out of the park, Johnson said.
The Atlanta Food Truck Park is not a regular fast food restaurant or store that just anyone can enter said, Johnson.
This is especially true for food truck attendee Gorman and his girlfriend. He explained that since he does not enjoy eating at regular restaurants, the food truck park was the perfect date night for him and his girlfriend.
“The Atlanta Food Truck Park has been rated three consecutive years by Jezebel magazine as one of the top locations for a first date,” Bowers said.
Gorman said he always drives by the park located on Howell Mill Road because it’s conveniently located right down the street from where he lives.
With this in mind, people have become more receptive of the food truck industry. The success of food trucks, in general, has people flocking to not only to the Atlanta Food Truck Park, but to food truck events all over Atlanta.
But some visit the park not out of convenience, but because of other interests.
The park’s appeal
Food trucks have consistently been growing popular, so popular that they have been setting up shop outside local schools and stores, Bowers said.
Even though there are food trucks all over the state of Georgia, the Atlanta Food Truck Park is significantly different.
“It’s the first and only permanent food truck park in Atlanta,” Bowers said.
Food trucks provide not only a connection over food, but create a peaceful and kind energy, Bowers.
“To be able to actually speak to the creative mind behind your meal is a rarity even in fine dining, yet very common among food trucks,” Bowers said.
Bowers said she thinks people also enjoy the unique menu concepts, the fusions and intriguing combinations at the Atlanta Food Truck Park.
In the long run, the Atlanta Food Truck Park is a community. Families, couples and friends gather together to enjoy one another’s company by making connections over the love of food explained Bowers.
A growing industry
For Joshua Neeld and his family, the food truck park is even more special since they want to open a food truck themselves. He and his family came from Brunswick, Georgia, which doesn’t have market for food trucks, Neeld said.
They had heard through the Atlanta Street Food Coalition website about the Atlanta Food Truck Park. The Neeld family decided it was in their best interest to travel to Atlanta to check out how food trucks are run and how food trucks provide for their customers.
With 10 years of service industry experience, Neeld realized opening a food truck now would be the perfect time since there is no competition in Brunswick, Georgia.
“The entrepreneurship in the food truck industry is what makes me want to start a food truck,” Neeld said. “Starting your own little small business is what makes food trucks likable. Food trucks also bring a fun and festive feel. Having food trucks also located in a park makes it a little more open. There is a lot of variety and people get to try a lot of different food items in one spot.”
The food truck industry is one of the faster growing businesses in Georgia, Bowers said.
“Being a new industry to Atlanta, the resurgence helped the food truck industry here become the fastest growing small business segment in the state,” Bowers said.
According to the park’s website, the goal of the park was to find a location with good visibility and a good demographic.