RICHMOND – Richmond City took a sow’s ear and turned in to a silk purse.
Jeff Young, the Richmond mayor, said the city bought the old gas station across from the Maverik on Highway 91. They leveled it and put gravel down, turning it into a food truck court. The area has water and electricity and they put some picnic tables under trees for shade. The sleepy little town, approaching 2,800, is hoping to draw some visitors.
“That was a fun one; we had a gang infested rat tank and we had to get creative with that property,” he said. “It was a lucky deal for us and good for our town.”
Doors and windows were broken, the place had been tagged with spray paint. It was an eyesore. It also had some buried fuel tanks.
“There is not a lot of money in small towns to restore buildings,” Young said. “It would be hard for someone to come up with a business plan that would work on that corner.”
The food trucks have to register with the city, have a business license and pay $300 a month for the space. Last year, they charged $150. Right now, there’s about a month before food truck season and the applications have started stacking up at the city offices. The food trucks will be setting up in April and May. Last year they had a taco truck and a shaved ice truck.
The city spent some money to get it all prepared and ready. They don’t have an ordinance in place that lets food trucks on their streets.
“We thought about charging less, but we want to get quality businesses in there,” Young said. “It’s a little different, but we think it will work.”
The mayor said they visited with the people at LD’s Café and Maverik and they seemed to be understanding. They felt like the food trucks wouldn’t interfere with the kind of food they serve.
“Maverik’s pull is a little different than the food trucks,” the mayor said. “Maverik is more of a snack driven scenario, but we still wanted to be respectful, so we approached them about what we were doing.”
A former city councilman, Paul Erickson, was on the city council and he spearheaded the project and understood how to get the property without using eminent domain.
“It took some time, but no one got too upset,” he said. “There was no yelling and screaming.”
Erickson said the Richmond corner gas station was an icon to the city.
“It was a classic old gas station with an outside pop machine. When I was just a kid we would try and get my dad to stop and get a drink when we were coming off the farm,” he said. “For years it was the place to go in Richmond.”
Both he and his wife loved the place. It was hard to see it abandoned and get so rundown, he said. The owner kept up on the payments, but he couldn’t scrape together enough cash for what he wanted to do in that spot. He decided to get out from under it.
The church adjacent to the food truck court has agreed to let Richmond City use their parking lot for food court patrons.
“It took five years to get everything put together,” Erickson said. “We got some money form the RAPZ Tax to help purchase the title from the owner.”