New food truck site proposed for downtown

Photo: Jxpfeer |

Jonesing for some of that fast truck food, now that the lot at Ringling and Links is shut down for the summer? A second location is in the works, this time at Ringling and Pineapple.

Chip Fendt filed his paperwork with the city earlier this month for the site at the southwest corner of that intersection, across Pineapple from Nancy’s Bar-B-Q. “The property right now is an eyesore,” he said.

It is more than eyesore. It is – to put it mildly – environmentally questionable, as it is the former site of a gas station, then a dry cleaners — back in the days when throwing chemicals out the back door was considered the right thing to do. Developers have eyed the site over the years, but as soon as they heard its history, they dropped their interest like an Agent Orange hand grenade. The site has sat unused for two decades.

Fendt, however, is proposing a use that doesn’t disturb the existing dirt and asphalt; he does not plan to build anything there. Instead, he’d open it up to self-contained food trucks and install some picnic tables and a handicapped-capable porta-potty. There already is an awning in place; it used to extend over the gas pumps. Fendt would use it to shade picnic benches anchored to the property.

Voila! Instant feasting! But no BBQ.

“I spoke with Nancy and I won’t have a competing BBQ truck,” he said.

Fendt made a presentation to the Downtown Improvement District (DID) on Aug. 21. “My idea is very similar to Mindy Parker’s Ringling Pointe Picnic area [Ringling at Links],” he told them. “I would like to provide pedestrians, the downtown workforce and visitors a destination where they could come enjoy an outdoor meal or take-away food and beverages.”

Parker blazed the bureaucratic trail last year — and it took her about a year to obtain all the necessary approvals and permits before opening her site. In theory, Fendt won’t require the same amount of time.

“I would like to offer to the downtown brick-and-mortar establishments the first right to participate in the food court. The idea is to enhance and not take away from any existing or operating businesses, but in fact add to their traffic and visibility,” he informed the DID.

Fendt would power-wash and paint the existing building, but not use the inside of it. Instead, he’s hoping that participants in the Chalk Festival – which takes place mostly on Pineapple in the fall – might decorate the building as an old-time gas station. He’s working in partnership with Bill Davis, owner of Barnacle Bill’s Restaurant on Main Street.

“The food truck industry is growing across the nation,” Fendt said.

“Since a business of this sort has no real history in our city, I would like to take the approach of starting off with some core trucks – five, maybe 10 – and see how we comfortably accommodate additional vendors,” he told the DID. “I have lived and worked in Sarasota my entire adult life, and it will be not only exciting but a privilege to be a part of the city core’s history.”

Unlike Mindy Parker’s operation further east on Ringling, Fendt would like to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. “Standing on this corner, one can look down historic Burns Court and then look down Ringling Boulevard out into Sarasota Bay … only minutes’ walking distance to all of the downtown and bay area,” he said.