Niagara Gazette

May 7, 2013

Food truck owner wants to roll into Lewiston

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

— LEWISTON — Food on the go may be changing forever in the village.

Christian Willmott, owner of The Black Market Food Truck — and a Lewiston native — approached the Lewiston Village Board Monday in hopes of finding a way to bring his brand of convenience to the village in the future.

He sees the village as a perfect new market for his food truck, primarily because he and his contemporaries simply don't venture north to the Niagara County suburbs. He said the growing exposure Lewiston has been receiving recently make it potentially lucrative.

"Every year, it seems, Lewiston is becoming more and more a destination people are visiting," Willmott said. "It was recently named one of the best small towns for food."

Food trucks have become a chic aspect of society, with local attention focused on the reception they've received in the region's population hub in Buffalo. Franchises like Lloyd's Tacos, Roaming Buffalo and Willmott's Black Market have, in some opinions, developed innovative ways to deliver tastes otherwise not available in the area.

But backlash has come against them as some have questioned the food truck industry's business plans, how they could have a negative effect on the sustainability of brick and mortar establishments and even the sanitation issues surrounding cooking in a moving vehicle.

Willmott said the presence of food trucks shouldn't affect the business of the typical restaurants, though.

"I've used this argument before myself, but if I'm going to a restaurant and see a food truck along the way, I'm not going to say 'I'll eat at the food truck instead,'" he said.

Bringing a food truck to Lewiston, which has an established restaurant industry, could be either a blessing or a curse. It's unknown how the area would treat the visiting trucks.

Willmott said he's teamed with established restaurants in the past and would look to do the same if he's able to bring his sandwiches to Lewiston.

Though conversations are still early, Willmott said the plan could involve bringing his truck into the village for a lunch, dinner or even late-night stops. Though the first two options could be feasible, late-night availability could be a lucrative future, especially if he can team with a restaurant like The Lewiston Village Pub.

He said the sheer size of the late-night crowds at The Pub, with a contingent of Niagara University students often packing the place, could make for a tasty partnership.

"In Buffalo, we've worked with Vera Pizza on Lexington Avenue," he said. "And we've worked with Blue Monk and Acropolis on Elmwood Avenue. We don't do long periods of time."

While there are no laws exclusively prohibiting or allowing food trucks in the village, Mayor Terry Collesano said there are required permits any outside business needs to obtain in order to operate.

The village board has a lot of factors to consider and won't be making any decisions soon, he said, adding the village attorney, current Lewiston restaurants, residents and the food truck operators themselves will all have a chance to make their cases in the coming weeks and months before any final decisions are made.

"We have to look much more in depth at the issue," Collesano said. "We'll need to seek legal counsel, and we'll need to find out how the brick and mortar restaurants feel, because those guys are big-time taxpayers and we love our restaurants."