Lunch customers braved the blazing sun on Friday, anxiously waiting in line outside Shea’s Kitchen to get their hands on the scrumptious plates, loaded with freshly fried grouper and an assortment of tasty side orders.
LaShae Douglas’ Shea’s Kitchen food truck is one of five food vans located on the spacious Freeport Food Truck Park in downtown Freeport.
Opened for the past 12 months, the parking lot can accommodate 12 food vans, supplying each mobile unit with electricity, water and adequate parking for customers.
Douglas, a single mother of three, who once operated the kitchen at Pat’s Restaurant and Bar in Sea Grape, Eight Mile Rock, relocated to the food park seven months ago.
“This is an ideal spot for me,” said the young entrepreneur. “The park is in a central area and customers are stopping in to try our dishes.”
Douglas’ food van menu offers a variety of seafood delights, including tender cracked conch and fried snapper. Of course, there are also hefty servings of peas ‘n’ rice, macaroni and cheese or a green salad.
Having grown up and worked in the western district, Douglas said she appreciates being at the new location.
“I like it better here,” she said. “The rent is affordable, I have water and electricity hooked up to my truck and I am making my own money.”
Food truck parks and food carts have been a popular venture in the United States (US) for decades. Having the trend start in Grand Bahama was an innovative idea, said Brandon McPhee.
Patronizing the Livity’s Vegetarian Take-Out and Juice Bar food truck, McPhee noted that the food truck park offers customers a one-stop shop alternative.
“Rather than driving from place to place, this gives you a variety of options in one spot,” he said.
“Choosing your meal for lunch made easy. Just pull up. Some of the vendors have a buzzer. This is so that you don’t have to stand around as you wait for your order. Instead, you can sit in your vehicle and the buzzer will sound alerting you that your food is ready.”
McPhee said not only are young Grand Bahamians starting businesses, they are also being creative.
“I think this is something that Grand Bahama needed,” he said. “We need more of it.”
Livity offers its customers a healthy alternative to the usual starchy, sugary plates. The food truck features alkaline smoothies made with locally grown fruits – tamarind, mango, sour soup and more.
Additionally, it serves vegetarian and alkaline foods.
McPhee said he visits the van “at least three to four times a month” for his healthy boost.
Over the past 10 years, food trucks began popping up on Grand Bahama, but a stationary location seemed to be a challenge for the mobile food vendors.
A solution became available when owners of the Food Truck Park, Freeport Restaurant Company Ltd., decided to put the vacant lot to use.
Park Manager Kenth Symonette II said it was simply a matter of what should be done with the property.
“It was just a question of what we wanted to do with it, because we are already in the food business and one person already had a food van on the property,” he said.
Symonette said his company figured that it was their (owners’) thought that other food van owners would appreciate having a fixed location, with utilities at a reasonable fee.
“And the idea was unique to us because Freeport didn’t have anything like it,” he said. “We wanted to offer something different.”
Finding a home for her Mini Donut King truck in a high-traffic area was ideal for former educator Nataliya Carey-Poitier, who set aside her chalk and donned an apron.
Carey-Poitier, who has been in the park since March of this year, said she did her homework prior to starting her business.
Co-owner of the operation that specializes in made-to-order mini donuts with her husband, Carey-Poitier explained that after coming up with the idea during the pandemic, she took to the internet and did her research.
“During the pandemic (lockdowns), I made some donuts, cake donuts,” she said.
“They were hot and they were good.”
Noting that the mini creations were tastier when hot, Carey-Poitier decided to proceed with the novel creation.
“I came up with the made-to-order mini donut idea and, after doing lots and lots of research, I found a machine that could pump them out and get the volume I needed to open a business,” she explained.
“We specialize in made-to-order mini donuts, milkshakes, funnel cakes … fun, quick treats. The milkshakes come with a freshly baked mini donut on top, so it’s different.
“We love being here. It is in a central location, it’s very convenient and our customers love coming to us, especially on weekends with their children.”
Carey-Poitier said it took her and her husband one year to open their business.
“It was not a smooth journey,” she stated. “My husband and I built this out of pocket. It took a lot of boot strapping and sacrifice.”
The Poitiers designed and remodeled their food truck after it arrived on the island from the US.
“Looking back at the photos of when we first got the trailer to where it is now, and that we have our business off the ground, I am extremely happy with what we’ve accomplished,” she said.
With the island lacking businesses that specialize in certain products, Carey-Poitier said Mini Donut King aims to do just that — “provide our customers with that one-of-a-kind treat”.
Several young entrepreneurs started new businesses during the COVID-19 lockdowns as establishments in the island’s already struggling economy were forced to close their doors.
Local financial consultant Lynn Adams said owning a food truck business can be a relatively fast and inexpensive means of getting back into the workforce.
“People usually resort to a business idea that allows for mobility. Like we saw during the pandemic, a lot of people offered mobile shopping and delivery services,” Adams said.
“They offered grocery shopping and home delivery, restaurant pick-up and delivery. We became innovative people at the snap of a finger. So, I think this Food Truck Park was ingenious.”