Year-Round Food Truck Park Unveiled in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley

In the heart of the Vintage Park Business Center, a groundbreaking culinary venture has emerged, offering locals an innovative year-round dining option. Nestled between office buildings and a senior center, a food truck park has taken root, providing covered seating and a diverse range of flavors for those willing to brave the cold.

Clarise Larson/KTOO

April Sapp, a patron from the nearby Jordan Creek Family Health Care office, expressed her enthusiasm while waiting for her order at one of the trucks. The park, inaugurated in December, offers a convenient alternative for those who would otherwise have to trek to a supermarket for lunch. Its strategic location in the Mendenhall Valley, miles away from the summer tourist hub downtown, ensures a consistent dining option for locals during the winter months.

Among the featured trucks, the Alaskan Crepe Escape, known for its sweet and savory creations during cruise season, is discovering a new dynamic in the valley. Owner Madelynne McKeown noted the joy of having regular customers and building connections within the community, a stark contrast to the transient nature of tourist-driven locations.

The food truck park's offerings are set to expand with the imminent arrival of a taco truck, a Filipino food truck, and a beer and wine cart. However, the decision to set up shop in the winter, away from the bustling downtown, is a significant gamble for these businesses.

Brian Holst, of the Juneau Economic Development Council, highlighted the seasonal challenges faced by traditional restaurants, often dependent on summer tourists for profitability. While winter operations incur higher costs and lower revenues, the food-truck model presents a cost-effective way for diverse culinary experiences to flourish, Holst explained.

Chad Edwards, owner of Pucker Wilson's, emphasized the difficulty of sustaining winter operations. The key, he said, is ensuring competitive wages to retain a dedicated staff, acknowledging the inherent challenges of operating in colder conditions.

Marty McKeown, the owner of the food truck park, hopes to fill a culinary void in the Mendenhall Valley. The park aims to cater not only to office workers in the vicinity but also to healthcare professionals from the nearby senior center and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium campus.

Devil's Hideaway, the other truck in the park, operated out of Squirez Bar in Auke Bay before joining this venture. Owner Anthony Kanouse appreciates the prospect of serving regulars and maintaining a unique culinary identity away from the downtown summer rush.

While the winter opening was unintentional, Marty McKeown sees the positive response as a testament to the park's success. Recognizing the potential influx of legislative staff from January to May as a source of business, Brian Holst expressed confidence in the diverse offerings and the park's ability to cater to local tastes, ultimately thriving year-round. For Madelynne McKeown, the year-round park presents an opportunity not only to provide consistent employment but also to offer a more stable staffing structure during the busy summer season.

As the chilly winter winds blow through Juneau's Mendenhall Valley, this food truck park stands as a testament to the resilience and innovation of the local culinary scene, providing a warm haven for food enthusiasts even in the coldest months.

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