By Bob Hembree
Lake Powell Chronicle
PAGE – The first food truck, according The New York Times, was in 1872.
“A vendor named Walter Scott cut windows into a small covered wagon and parked it in front of a local newspaper office in Providence, (Rhode Island). Sitting on a box inside, he sold sandwiches with pies and coffee to journalists and pressmen working late.”
Selling food on the streets is far from new; it goes back to the Ancient Greeks. It’s a major force around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates 2.5 billion people in the world eat “street food” every day.
Street food in America goes beyond construction site lunch wagons, ice cream, taco and hot dog venders. They’ve gone gourmet, and people love it. In Page, they get the same recognition typically reserved for new brick and mortar restaurants: A ribbon cutting and a photo op with the mayor and the economic development team.
Arizona Governor Ducey signed the Food Truck Freedom Bill in May 2018. Ducey said, “Food truck operators are entrepreneurs who are offering a great product that Arizonans love. Creating a level playing field and a uniform standard for Arizona’s food trucks is a commonsense move. This is a step in the right direction to help the rapidly growing food truck industry in Arizona by eliminating the confusion and barriers caused by varying regulations.”
Kate Sease and Brad Owens, both longtime Page residents, pooled money together to start the new business. Kate said, “Brad and I spend a lot of time at Lone Rock and have seen the increase in tourist over the last few years, and Brad just happened to say to me, ‘If we could get a food truck here, I would retire from my job and do it.’ I accepted the challenge …. The timing was right for us to go ahead and pull some of his retirement money and my retirement money and gamble on ourselves.”
Kate has covered a lot of territory in the Page area. She was a hiking guide, gave kayak tours and provided houseboat maintenance. She currently runs a massage and yoga business in Page. Brad’s lived in Page since the 70s and worked for the city of Page for 10 years.
Brad said, “I mainly cook, set menus, find out what to cook, try to find out what this town needs and what people want to eat. So, trying to stay on top of it; that’s the toughest thing to do.”
Kate added, “Brad is the master mind behind the menu and rocks the grill. I will be doing the baking this winter of fresh muffins and scones. I usually am the face in the window taking orders and I rock the prep table for sandwiches and salads.”
Kate and Brad plan to stay open year-round, and open only three days a week to start with. Brad says there’s a lot of maintenance involved, about three days of cleaning each week.
Kate and Brad navigated red tape for two years to become the first in Glen Canyon history to be allowed to operate at Lone Rock.
Kate said, “Tim [Suan] and his team were amazing to work with.“ Kate added, “Every time we talk to anybody in the community about opening up a food truck, everybody said, ‘Oh no the town won’t let you do that, City Council won't let you do that, other food trucks have tried it.’ We went and spoke to Tim and the economic development team and they were like, ‘Yeah, here’s the zoning laws, this is all you have to do.’ We followed them, they were straightforward, and we’re just happy to be here in the community.”
Mayor Levi Tappan shared Kate’s sentiment, “I want to give a shout-out to Tim’s economic development team. A couple years ago, council had the vision to clear out the used cars from here (Block 17) so we could open up new restaurants. We wanted new restaurants, and we got ones that close down in the wintertime. This town wants restaurants. Tim and his team brought us a restaurant and counsel said, ‘We don’t want that one.’ So, Tim and his team went out and got us Rig2Flip. And this is awesome. It’s just perfect for this corner what we’ve been talking about for Block 17 for the last couple years.”
Food trucks are becoming more popular in recent years, not only for consumers, but as a way for budding entrepreneurs to test the market and evolve to a brick and mortar restaurant. There are many such success stories across the country.
Food trucks become restaurants, sometimes with multiple locations. Tappan says, “Big Johns used to be a truck. They all turn into restaurants.”
Kate is taking it one step at a time. She said, “Our focus is building Lone Rock in Glen Canyon Memorial Day through Labor Day, taking almost two years to become the first in Glen Canyon park history is pretty exciting for us. Then building a local following on North Navajo and 6th Street during fall, winter and spring. We are really just focused on being the best little food truck that we can become in our community and who knows what the future could become.”
Rig2Flip offers American, Mexican, Asian, and Greek dishes at affordable prices. They announce times, locations, and menus on their Rig2Flip Facebook page, said Kate.
With the tourism boom underway in Page, well-located and well-timed food trucks could enhance visitor experience.
The national average for return visits to vacation spots is a little over 50 percent. Return visits to Page is less than half the national average. There are a lot of factors that keep visitors coming back, but sometimes it’s the little things, like a great gyro from the orange food truck.