Would mobile vendors eventually end up hurting Hoboken?

Mobile vendors and lunch trucks in Hoboken NJBack in the day – you typically had just a small number of mobile vendors – and they were mostly food.

The ice cream truck in the summer, a hot dog stand in some obscure location, and mobile food operations at places like outdoor festivals. That was about it!

I recall the ice cream truck being a “special occasion” for most people, because there weren’t a million ice cream stores within a stones throw. And kids were out actually playing on the streets. Not just schlepping from one place to another with family (and iPad Mini’s) in tow. Well deserved iced refreshments after working up a good summer sweat.

But the times have changed dramatically – especially since the economic “crash” of the late 2000′s. But how do all these mobile operations, while seemingly good for the consumer on the surface, affect a city like Hoboken in general?

Hoboken food truck trend on the rise

Despite restrictive food truck ordinances snuck into the law books (by members of the council who own restaurants and despise competition), the Hoboken lunch truck brigade is healthy – and growing.

With the exception of The Taco Truck, most food truck vendors that frequent the mile square, most likely began their operation due to the much higher start-up costs to own a brick & mortar restaurant (100′s of thousands vs. 10′s of thousands). Mobile food trucks are a quick and dirty way to start a potentially money making entrepreneurship.

The Taco Truck Hoboken NJ

Plus – one reason I think these trucks are succeeding (other than the influx of optimistic business owners), is probably because of the “random excitement” of seeing a truck you haven’t eaten at in a while, and many customers probably seize the opportunity because they don’t know when they’ll see the truck again. A kind of excitement many people need because they’re otherwise bored with their lives (i.e., what do you do that’s productive?)

Additionally, the trucks are capitalizing on many liberal trends that appeal to digitally connected younger people. Organic. Vegan. Grass-fed. Eco-friendly, and so on. They are giving what their customers (think they) want.

Mobile vendors of all kinds popping up now in Hoboken

So the number of food trucks has risen considerably. But now we have clothing boutiques on wheels – such as the Chic Rattle & Roll – and others beginning to pop up. I don’t believe the city ordinance was even written to incorporate other types of businesses that don’t serve food.

Where do you draw the line? What might come next?

Mobile nail salons? Mobile dry cleaning? MOBILE DAY CARE FOR TODDLERS? (That was my idea)

Should mobile vendors set up far away from traditional businesses?

Some may argue that if it’s not a competing business, that the trucks can and should be able to setup wherever they have parking. “Free market capitalism.”

Others argue that the simple fact that more options exist for the same financial spending base, that it could negatively impact the bottom line for everyone. In other words, there is only so much money being spent in Hoboken. However, you can say the same thing is happening with online sales vs. brick and mortar anyway. Blame it on technology and other advancements if you must.

Hoboken Lunch Truck Park concept

And of course you have the debate between traditional and mobile vendors where they complain about overhead, cost of doing business, etc.

However – some cities have designated “lunch truck areas” that are well removed from the beaten path – yet provide enough of a compelling reason to take the trip (variety, selection, something for everyone). Sort of like a farmers market of street festival. Perhaps the food trucks (and any others) that come visit Hoboken should be limited to the Vezzetti Way area? Or a similar area elsewhere in town? Other than people complaining about lost parking – how would that work out?

Sign of the times – or are there alternatives?

How do you feel about all this “competition” for your money just driving into Hoboken. Especially the food?

Would you rather see empty storefronts and even more idling food trucks? What drives people to the food trucks anyway? Complete laziness? Last I checked, the food wasn’t so astounding or affordable that I would hunt them down instead supporting my local eateries.

Sure – we may have a modest number today – but what if 100 different lunch trucks entered Hoboken on a daily basis. 250? At what point is enough? Can you even restrict it by law? Or does the city not even care as long as they can collect the fees from everyone?

Can you blame anyone else for this trend? Greedy landlords? Sick property taxes? Excessive government?

What would be an ideal scenario in Hoboken? More, less or the same?