CULLMAN, AL - From his perch in south Cullman at the corner of Lowe’s parking lot, Duane Coucke has spent the past year carving out his own niche in the burgeoning local food truck business.
As owner of Dewey’s Cajun Shack, he spent the early days making stops at a few different locations but has now settled in permanently at Lowe’s thanks to an agreement with the company and a steady stream of south side patrons in search of po’ boys and seafood plates.
With the City of Cullman now eyeing its first-ever food truck ordinance to establish some ground rules for the upstart vendors within the city, Coucke said he’s interested to see how the proposal works and the impact it could have to grow — or hurt — the industry.
“The food truck business is alive and well in larger metros, and it’s something that gives people a chance to experience other cultures through food,” he said. “That part, I think, is really good for Cullman. It’s a great thing if you’re able to get somebody in who is authentic Cajun or Mexican or Italian food. Sometimes you can have some people with great ideas who can really give the people of Cullman something different.”
After watching nearby cities like Birmingham run into headaches with the finer points of their ordinances in recent months, city leaders say they’re looking at several food truck guidelines to draft an ordinance that takes the better elements from regional cities to hopefully create a market that will benefit business owners and residents alike.
“We’re really just having an open discussion to see which ideas will work and what doesn’t so we can try to come up with a system that’s really fair,” city council member Clint Hollingsworth said. “Figuring out the locations will be critical, and finding ways to avoid traffic and safety issues.”
The council introduced a draft of the “Cullman Mobile Food Vendors Ordinance” earlier this week but tabled it to allow some additional tweaks before it is formally introduced for consideration.
A handful of food trucks are already operating successfully in Cullman, and Hollingsworth said the plans for a formal ordinance were born out of requests from potential vendors wanting more information about the area before they commit to launch a truck or expand service to the city.
“We’ve had people come to us who are in the business and those looking to invest in it, so it’s something we wanted to look at,” he said.
If executed well, Hollingsworth said he believes a formal ordinance — and hopefully the vendors it might bring — could be a worthwhile addition to downtown.
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