Keeping tabs on the latest trends and capitalizing on those trends in a timely and effective way is an essential component behind any successful entrepreneurial endeavour.
Proof positive of this adage is Napanee-based Venture Food Trucks. An offshoot of the already wildly successful Willy Dog Hot Dog Cart operation, which has sold thousands of high-end hotdog and food carts all over the world. Venture Food Trucks began in January of 2013 under the auspices of Niki Hodgskiss, daughter of Willy Dog owner Will Hodgskiss. The firm has already built a dozen of the food trucks for entrepreneurs in various parts of Ontario.
“We have been consistently busy since we started building them earlier this year. We have done those first 12 and there’s a lot of work that goes into them. They are basically mobile kitchens. These are not chip trucks, or catering trucks, they are designed for more gourmet products. For example we have done a salad truck, a gourmet hot dog truck – trucks where they make everything from scratch, because all the items they need are contained in the truck,” the younger Hodgskiss explained.
“We have a vegetarian truck that specializes in falafel, there’s a smoked meat truck, and we have done two gourmet grilled cheese trucks. Our latest is a truck that specializes in home-made pasta. We have clients in Montreal, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, throughout Quebec and some in Kingston as well.”
Hodgkiss said the company branched out into full-on, 12 to 20-foot-long mobile food trucks because they saw a growing demand for them, especially amongst workers and students in the downtowns of urban centres
“We did see a demand for it. All of a sudden this sort of thing has become really popular and we started to see them popping up in various cities. It’s great for would-be entrepreneurs because it’s a lot cheaper to get a mobile commercial-grade kitchen in a truck than it is to buy or build a bricks and mortar restaurant. And we are finding with mobile food trucks people want healthier options, more gourmet options and more unique options. A lot of them are going to have fixed locations, based on the licencing bylaws of their local municipality, but they would also be used at big special events like festivals.”
Venture Food Trucks did get guidance and assistance both from the L&A County Economic Development Department and with officials with the PrInce Edward – Lennox & Addington Community Futures Development Corporation.
“And we have found that it’s pretty easy to do business here in the county and in the Town of Greater Napanee. It’s nice to know you’re dealing with the same people all the time. They are very accommodating, and it’s also a lot cheaper to do business here,” said Hodgskiss, who said access to Highway 401 mere minutes away is also a big advantage.
“We try to use as many local suppliers and tradespeople as we can. The trucks are all painted here in Napanee, from someone who rents a unit from us here at the warehouse. All the signage we try to get from here in town, as well as a lot of the tools and raw materials that we use. I find that being located in a smaller town like Napanee actually works in our favour because you get to build a really solid personal working relationship with all these people. It’s great how we all support one another.”
Willy Dog and Venture operate out of the old East Ward School on Camden Road, just past the railway bridge in downtown Napanee. The former storage facility for Gibbard Furniture was converted into warehouse and fabrication spaces out back, while the school building will be home to offices for local businesses and organizations, demonstrating the Hodgkiss family’s commitment to supporting and investing in the local economy.
For more information on Venture Food Trucks, visit http://venturefoodtrucks.com.