MOORESVILLE – A food truck festival might seem like it would take business away from nearby restaurants, but Mooresville Downtown Commission Executive Director Kim Atkins said that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“Obviously, it’s the summer,” Atkins said of the food truck event season, which is April through October. “Some people arrive and don’t want to sit outside in the heat. … So people might come and say, ‘I’d rather just come sit inside, so let’s go here.’”
Atkins said she can only guess as to why restaurant sales unexpectedly seem to do as well as retail sales during the monthly festival. She said it could also be that people don’t usually intend to shop when they come to the event.
“My guess would be a lot of people bring lawn chairs and have family and friends with them,” Atkins said. “They’re eating and hanging out, listening to music. They aren’t necessarily going into shops.”
Some retail businesses along Main Street, where the Festival of Food Trucks is held, say they still feel like the event benefits them.
“We usually do pretty well during food trucks,” Ain’t Miss Bead Haven manager Jessica Hagens said. “We at least get a lot of people coming in.”
Not all of those people want to make a necklace or buy merchandise.
“A lot of times we just get a lot of people who are like, ‘I didn’t know you were here,’” Hagens said. “And so then that gets them in the door for the future. … Even though we know we’re not going to get a lot of business that night, we’re getting a lot of future business that night.”
Atkins said bringing that awareness to downtown is one of the main reasons the Festival of Food Trucks, which is in its fourth year, was organized.
“One of the big things we focus on is exposure, not always the sales on that particular day,” Atkins said.
Tim Chung of Tim’s Table said he got slammed with business last time he opened his restaurant during the festival.
But it wasn’t necessarily something he enjoyed.
“From 6:30-8 p.m., we got killed,” he said. “We did a great business, but I don’t think it was really worth it. The amount of effort we had to put out to do that in an hour and a half... And then cleanup lasted all night. The bathroom just got abused.”
Chung said he hasn’t opened up during the food truck festival since then. But he said he loves attending the event as a Mooresville resident.
“I enjoy seeing people from town,” Chung said. “Downtown Commission does a great job with it. I think a lot of people enjoy it.”
Food trucks tend to be like bands in that they have a following, and people will travel for them.
“People will follow their favorite food truck,” Atkins said. “We try to get a good number of food trucks, and a lot of them come out from Charlotte. … Maybe people who have never been to downtown will come, and we hope they come back.”
Atkins said the Mooresville Downtown Commission is also trying something new this year to increase that downtown exposure – alternating the spots on Main Street where they hold the festival.
“It always is one block of Main Street,” Atkins said. “This year, we’ve alternated between the 100 block of North Main and the 200 block of North Main.”
Hagens said she “loves” that change.
“Because it used to always be down at the other block, and it’d be dead for the rest of that afternoon because everything was down there,” Hagens said. “So we’re really appreciative of having them down here now and taking turns with us. … We’d definitely love to see it more in the future.”
This month the festival will be held Saturday, Aug. 11, in the 200 block of North Main, between Moore and Iredell avenues.
Atkins said the event usually attracts about 1,500 people, and it features a different lineup of food trucks each month.
People who are interested in attending should either bring their own chairs or plan to get to the event early.
“We do put out tables and chairs, but those go pretty quickly,” Atkins said. “And the street is closed, so people can park their chairs anywhere there.”
Atkins said the roads will reopen at 9 p.m. Saturday.