Robbinsville council signed off in late July on a plan to use food trucks to attract visitors to Foxmoor Shopping Center.
Councilman Dan Schuberth said council and the township’s Foxmoor redevelopment subcommittee have been working with Pennmark Management—which owns Foxmoor Shopping Center—to make the idea a reality. Foxmoor Shopping Center manager Justin Bartholomew estimated that trucks could start appearing at the plaza in early 2020.
Council removed one of the last roadblocks during its July 25 meeting, passing an ordinance to allow food trucks to operate in the plaza. The measure will let up to five food trucks plaza at a time, Schuberth said.
However, Bartholomew and township economic and community development director Hal English were quick to refute social media rumors that suggested the idea would turn Foxmoor into a “food truck mecca.”
“It is not going to be a huge food truck festival,” English said.
Bartholomew first proposed the food truck idea to the council in May after seeing how well it has worked for Coventry Mall in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, another plaza he manages.
He said the idea is to attract visitors to the plaza and support existing tenants, not make things harder for the restaurants already in the center. He said food trucks whose menus compete with Foxmoor restaurants would not be welcome. There are three restaurants in the plaza currently, with a fourth—Thai Ginger—on its way. Bagels n’ Cream, Friendly’s and Massimo’s Pizzeria and Cucina Napoletana have long been mainstays in Foxmoor.
“I’m not creating competition, I’m showing people the plaza,” Bartholomew said.
Although Coventry Mall has brought in around 25 food trucks each year, Bartholomew says he is hopeful for the smaller-scale plan for Foxmoor, saying the experiment will be trial and error.
“It benefits everyone in the end,” he says. “It brings people that may not have been there otherwise.”
Logistics are still being worked out, though. Pennmark’s hope is to bring in a small number of food trucks a few times a month. To start, it could be as little as once a month.
Pennmark has worked to iron out some details with shop owners in the plaza, with Bartholomew saying stores in Foxmoor Shopping Center have agreed to offer their restrooms to food truck patrons. Tenants in the shopping center have also agreed to assist with garbage and recycling generated by the new initiative.
Food trucks most likely won’t appear in the shopping center until next year, due to the advanced booking the trucks require, Bartholomew said. He added that the plaza does not have enough room for a large number of trucks or any kind of food truck festival.
“We purchased the center not even a year ago,” he said. “We’re still figuring out the direction we’re heading, and it’s a good direction.”
Meanwhile, the township has stepped in to ensure the food trucks are under the same scrutiny as other eateries in the area. The food trucks must meet requirements to operate in the plaza, Schuberth said, such as health inspections. Criminal background checks will be conducted on food truck operators, and adequate parking, sanitation, and access to restroom facilities will be required.
The Foxmoor redevelopment subcommittee was supportive of Bartholomew’s idea and open to collaborating on the idea with Pennmark, Schuberth said. He added that council formed the subcommittee in 2016 to consider any idea that might reinvigorate the center. Schuberth sits on the subcommittee with English, councilman Mike Cipriano, Mayor Dave Fried and business administrator Joy Tozzi.
“We’re open to outside-the-box ideas like food trucks to encourage residents to visit the plaza and support our local shops,” Schuberth said. “We look forward to restoring the plaza to full occupancy, and making it a wonderful destination for all of our residents to enjoy.”