Jasmine Lee was tired of asking her family where they wanted to eat every night. She solved the problem by providing her with the options.
Last December, Lee purchased a lot at 2500 53rd Street in Moline. She spent the next six months properly zoning the land, then added lighting, electricity and parking to turn the unused green space into the 2,500 Marketplace, a place for food trucks and vendors to park and for people to gather.
“The goal is just for everyone to make money and have a good experience,” she said.
The idea of starting a food truck lot had been in her mind for several years, but the right opportunity never presented itself. Lee herself owned many businesses and was looking for another project. After driving past the parking lot on her way home, she realized it had the potential to be what she was looking for.
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A food truck park could bring life to the space, Lee thought, and she decided to reach out to truck owners to see if they would be at all interested in parking there. Armed with positive responses and support, Lee set out to purchase the land. But, as always, there was a catch.
“This land was owned by the municipality,” she said, referring to the municipality of South Moline.
The plot was sold for 15 years without bites. Lee decided to try to buy it for himself and entered into negotiations to purchase the land. After they purchased it, she began talking to the city government about properly zoning the land for food sales.
“I really wanted to come up with an idea that used the space that I gave back to the community,” she said. “It was an amazing work in progress, just going through the different channels.”
Once the planning and zoning were done, Lee began talking to vendors to see what they would need to be successful. Electricity was at the top of the list. Most trucks have generators, but being able to plug in keeps the noise down and makes people want to stick around, she said.
Lee has installed three electric poles, lights for trucks that serve dinner and even designed the parking lot specifically with a second exit to make it as safe as possible. A trash can, a permanent hand washing station, and trash cans completed the list of needs and once that was all done, truck owners started calling.
“It’s really as easy as a food truck calling me and saying, ‘How do I get to your lot?'” she said. “And I say the same thing to everyone: Let’s meet there, look at the look and see if you like it and if it’s going to work for you.”
Each week, Lee posts a schedule of the various trucks on the 2500’s Marketplace Facebook page. Some trucks come for lunch, some for dinner, and some for both. All truck owners have the right to make their own schedules, she said. Personally, her goal is to have a truck on site twice a day, seven days a week.
Until the lot went through the planning and zoning board, Lee couldn’t advertise it as a food truck lot. Instead, she got creative and handed out flyers and made a Facebook page advertising the “extended backyard” lot she managed.
The lot officially opened in June and had trucks for both lunch and dinner almost every day of the week.
“If you can get through the red tape and work with the city and get something done, they’re so supportive of new business,” she said.
On Tuesday, Bo Eastin brought his QC Fork in the Road truck over for lunch. By noon, about a dozen customers waited patiently by the lot’s permanent picnic tables.
Eastin’s truck is based in Davenport, but it travels around the Quad-Cities wherever it finds a free parking spot. He opened the truck last year after 26 years in the industry.
Eastin usually follows a schedule, making it easy for fans to find his food. That summer, when he found out about Marketplace at 2500, he rolled his bright red truck over the river and immediately bought into the concept.
“We came and tried it and loved the idea and the concept of bringing something here,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of options, so hearing the vision and knowing where they wanted to go, it was definitely one of those things I wanted to be a part of.”
Part of that vision is to expand the lot with even more vendors next year. Lee plans to add fresh produce stands and eventually a farmers market.
“If it takes off, I’ve been working with the city on a possible building to put in the back,” she said.
Until then, Eastin said it will continue to visit Marketplace because customers like it, too. He said that at the beginning of the summer, customers were surprised by the new venture, but the more variety, the more they liked it, even if it wasn’t completely finished.
“They liked it because they have different opportunities that they’ve been able to get through here,” he said. “The patrons who pass are true and faithful. Once they drove into a construction site to get food.’
QC Fork in the Road customers can expect classic fare like burgers, grilled cheese, sandwiches, quesadillas, wraps and appetizers. Eastin said he built his menu using his years of industry knowledge and added unique items like the Bloody Mary burger, Cuban quesadilla and bacon donut holes. He plans to be at the same location next Thursday.
With cold weather approaching, many food trucks are closing up shop for the season, but not Eastin. He hopes to stay open as long as possible, and Lee hopes the trucks will continue to visit Marketplace at 2500 during the winter season when the weather is nice enough.
“The goal is just to give the vendors and the community a new experience,” she said. “I have no intention of closing. We will have a lot more vendors next year.”
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