Wednesday's cold, wet weather may not have been conducive to grabbing an ice pop or an ice cream snack, but Texas A&M senior Ian Weber remained optimistic.
Weber, bundled up in a thick peacoat, worked the window at Frio's Gourmet Pops truck for the grand opening of the Wayside Food Park in College Station, and while sales weren't brisk thanks to the December chill, he wasn't deterred.
"I'm excited," he said as he prepared a gingerbread and graham cracker ice cream treat for serving. "I think this food truck park was a good idea."
The Wayside Food Park, located in Northgate in the 200 block of University Drive, features as many as 10 food trucks offering a wide variety of edibles to hungry Aggies. While Wednesday's first official day got off to a slow start as the weather put a damper on foot traffic off the edge of Texas A&M's campus, the grills remained hot, the freezers stayed crisp and food truck owners and employees kept smiling.
The idea to have a food truck park in Aggieland first came about several years ago from Derek Barre, the owner of DBQ Barbecue & Catering, a food truck normally parked alone on Texas Avenue directly across from campus.
"I opened up my truck about five years ago, and I realized that in College Station there aren't [food] trucks parked together like in Austin," said Barre, an Austin native.
So Barre spoke with College Station City Councilman James Benham, who loved the idea of a food truck park in town. Benham presented the concept of allowing such an establishment to other council members, who in 2015 agreed to approve an ordinance allowing this new creation.
"This allows not just my park, but the ordinance allows for all food truck parks to be here," Barre said.
With Alex Jester and Matt Abegglen, Barre got to work on building Wayside. He was able to lease land right off of the Northgate district next to Chimy's restaurant, with what he said was congenial acceptance from other restaurants and bars in the area. Barre said he feels Wayside is not taking away business from the other companies, but rather enhancing the Northgate experience with the addition of food and non-alcoholic beverages, although beer and wine will soon be sold at Wayside once permits have been finalized.
"It's not a bar," he said. "Beer and wine will be there to have with your food. We'll [stop selling] those drinks at midnight -- this isn't a place to come and get shots."
Wayside has a permanent pavilion covering a cafeteria-style eating area. In addition to hosting the food trucks, Wayside has a permanent restaurant facility that sells drinks and food, as well as having restrooms. Shade is present for the summer, and large heaters warm the pavilion in the cold.
"We sunk in about half a million dollars putting in a foundation, grading, building this pavilion," Barre said. "This is not normal for a food truck park."
Food trucks will be able to open as early as 5 a.m. each day and stay open as late as 3 a.m. The business owners operate independently of Wayside, each paying a $1,500 monthly lease to sell their goods but being accountable to the health department on their own.
While the park can accommodate up to 10 trucks, on Wednesday there were seven open. Available items included ice cream, barbecue, savory sandwiches, donuts and crepes, depending on the truck.
"If an ice cream place wants to sell ice cream during the winter, I say go for it," Barre said. "If a hot cocoa truck comes in during the summer, that's OK, too. ... I'm looking for places that add diversity and bring something good to this park."
Beny Fam, a cook with food truck Moki Hoki, took a big step in coming to Wayside. The food truck owned by Houstonite Xiang Lin is the only one of its kind, serving both ice cream as well as savory sandwich-style food out of handmade waffles. Though Moki Hoki has been operating in Houston, owners and employees saw online that Wayside was opening up and wanted to move everything from the big city to try and feed the student population in Aggieland.
The cold rain put a damper on the fresh scents coming from Moki Hoki's grill, but Fam said that like his new neighbor over at Frio's, he has optimistic for the future. The waffle wielders will be staying at Wayside as long as they need to.
"We just came here to give it a try," Fam said. "Houston is a good place, too."
To learn more, visit www.waysidefoodpark.com.