Often when I am traveling to visit food trucks I need to make difficult decisions about which food truck events to visit and how far to travel to catch up with food trucks where they are “Serving Now.” As an example, Greenville, SC was not on my original list of cities to visit during the planning of my most recent food truck tour through parts of the South. But, when I realized that Greenville was directly in my path between Atlanta and Charlotte, and that I could, by using our Check-In tool, see that ThoroughFARE food truck was "checked in," I changed plans on my GPS and was on my way to stop by and say hi!
So that's how I came to meet Neil and Jessica of ThoroughFARE Food Truck, just a few weeks ago, on May 1, 2014. And, as it turns out, they were the one and only food truck that we were able to visit in Greenville, South Carolina, and it also happened to be on day one of their using FoodTrucksIn.com to let customers know where they were “Serving Now!"
I arrived just after 11 AM, hoping to chat with Neil before the lunch rush; and as it turned out so did a class of over 50 students on a field trip! It was great to watch Neil and his team in action. But, as a result, we did not get to chat as much as I would have liked. So, after my trip concluded I got hold of Neil and asked him to chat with me some more!
Eric: During my last road trip I visited you in Greenville SC. It seemed like the truck was staffed by family. Is that a usual occurrence? Is it usually a family affair?
Neil: Typically, my wife and I run the truck. She runs the window and I do most of the cooking. Because of other scheduled 'events' going on at the same time at the same location, I called other family in for backup. I've trained both of them pretty well over the last six months during larger events and it has turned out well so far (we haven't killed each other yet!).
Eric: I noticed you were parked in a spot reserved for food trucks. Are these spots all around Greenville? Can you park in any other spot you want or are there restrictions?
Neil: There are tight restrictions in the "Central Business District" of Greenville. Food Trucks cannot park within 250 feet of any restaurant unless we receive their permission in writing and park on private property. There are 4 places where food trucks can park that are marked off by the city during certain hours. Unfortunately, all of these spaces are off the beaten path and take time to develop a base of returning customers. We use that one space that you saw 2-4 times a month.
Eric: You are not far from Charlotte or Asheville, NC. Both places have food truck scenes that are a bit larger and more well known. What do you see is an advantage of having a food truck in Greenville?
Neil: The food truck scene in Greenville is still small but a lot of people here care about good food, craft beer, and the diverse developing culture of the Upstate (Greenville, Anderson, Spartanburg). Most people that enjoy craft beer typically will find a food truck serving at the breweries.
Eric: What do you expect the food truck scene to look like in Greenville in 3 years?
Neil: I can see the food truck possibly doubling in the next 3 years, hopefully becoming more welcomed by city council and the people of Greenville. There are 3 craft breweries in Greenville now and I believe there is room for more (SC law restricts breweries from serving food... that is why we are used by them all of the time)
Eric: How far will you travel to do an event with the food truck?
Neil: Mainly, we stay within Greenville City and County. Codes and Regulations change when you cross state lines, etc.
Eric: What did you do before owning the truck?
Neil: I worked a multitude of jobs. Catering, Fine Dining in Hotels and Resorts, Real Estate, and last but not least, the oil and natural gas industry.
Eric: What date did the first truck first go on the road to serve customers? Do you remember your very first customer?
Neil: Our truck served its first event called EUPHORIA in Greenville and it was more of handing out tasters, etc. My first customers were mainly family, stuffing them with meatloaf sandi's, cheddar gravy topped tots, etc!!
Eric: How did you come up with the name ThoroughFARE?
Neil: We wanted a more 'neutral' name to call our food truck allowing us to explore all cuisines. My wife wrote down a lot of synonyms and words relating to street and food. Obviously, thoroughfare means street and fare means food. The rest is history!!!
Eric: Your wife also owns a small business. Do you help each other out?
Neil: Yes, both Jess and I help each other out all the time. She owns A Darling Day (adarlingday.com), which is a wedding photography business and vintage/boutique furniture rental company. We fight for weekends (Food Truck v. Wedding Photography)!
Eric: Do you have future plans for the businesses, do they complement each other?
Neil: Our goal is to utilize both the food truck/catering service and the wedding photography/vintage furniture rentals under one roof in an event center, where we can host private parties, rehearsal dinners, and even weddings.
Eric: Were you a customer of food trucks before you opened yours?
Neil: Yes, we visited multiple trucks trying to understand everything that goes along with the Food Truck biz.
Eric: Is there a memorable story about the moment that you decided to start the food truck?
Neil: Once I bought a one way ticket to Rhode Island (from SC), it was official..... I was getting back into the food industry and being a small business owner full time.
Eric: I happen to know you bought your truck in Providence. How did you find it? Did you buy it sight unseen? How did you get it to SC?
Neil: I began searching some used vending websites, Ebay and Craigslist to look for a truck and found this one on Ebay. It had been half built, so it gave us a head start on getting the business rolling. I took a one way flight to RI and checked everything out. The purchase was made and I drove it back to SC. It was snowing in NY and I had no heat in the truck. 4 layers of clothes helped me get through it!!!
Eric: How often is your truck out on the road?
Neil: We typically serve 4-6 times a week depending on weather, other business, and larger events.
Eric: How would you describe your food?
Neil: We believe in simple dishes from fresh ingredients with big flavors. Cuisine is typically considered NEW American.
Eric: How often do you offer specials or change your menu?
Neil: Typically, we have 2-3 go to items that people love and we try to introduce something new on a bimonthly basis.
Eric: You fed me great fish tacos as your truck, but I noticed the TOTS, which I did not get to try!
Neil: They are great! We change toppings on the tots and people love them. They come back to the window and give great compliments to the tots and their wonderful toppings! I do believe the most famous guy we served was one of the main guys over at the Augusta National.
Eric: Is there a food truck in another city you would most like to visit someday?
Neil: We will be visiting Nashville and St. Louis soon and will be using Food Trucks IN to find trucks that are very active and serve great cuisine.
You can learn more about ThoroughFARE Food Truck and where they will be Serving Now at http://www.foodtrucksin.com/thoroughfare-food-truck