ENTIAT — Kim and Matt Martin are bringing a taste of Maui to Entiat, though not necessarily in the form of pineapple and coconut.
They are turning their near 1-acre vacant commercial lot in the 14500 block of Highway 97A into a central location for food trucks — Tulla’s Food Truck Alley.
“We saw this idea when we were in Maui on vacation several years ago,” Kim Martin said. “We saw a food truck lot that was a vibrant community gathering place with great food and beverage options.”
She took photos and videos at the time.
“I thought it was such a great idea,” she said.
A year later, they came across the highway frontage property that sits between North Cascades Heating & Air Conditioning and the Shell gas station.
“My husband said, ‘This might be a good spot to try it,’” Kim Martin said, so they purchased the land. That was in 2019, before the pandemic prompted restaurateurs to get innovative with curbside, takeout and outdoor dining options.
Last fall, after noticing a host of business licenses being issued for food trucks across the region, they decided the timing was good to put the plan into action.
The property, which once was home to a restaurant that burned in 1996 and later an espresso stand location, already had access to water, sewer and electricity, making it relatively easy to adapt to the needs of mobile food trucks. It also has a mix of paved area, gravel and lawn.
“They don’t need to have electricity, but it means they don’t have run their generators,” she said of potential food truck clients.
The food truck alley will be anchored by Tulla’s Sweet Retreats, a bakery stand operated by Sarah Stenberg.
“It will be a bakery stand with coffee. No espresso yet. She is about three weeks away from opening,” Martin said, depending on permits and licensing.
The bakery and its Facebook page also will provide information on the food truck lineup at any given time.
The first two food trucks — Blue Skies Food Shack, from East Wenatchee, and Frickster’s BBQ, from Yakima — are expected to start on Mother’s Day Sunday.
“We want to prove the concept first, so we’re starting with two trucks,” she said. “We hope to have a mix of full-time and weekend food trucks, but we shall see.”
Food truck operators can lease space by the month or by the day — or somewhere in between.
“It’s open for discussion,” she said. “Some trucks go to different communities every day. If I was a food truck owner and had the same amount of customer demand, I wouldn’t mind being in one place and not putting mileage on the vehicle. So someone might be happy staying in the same place. In Maui, it looked like they all stayed there.”
The hope is Tulla’s Food Truck Alley will be active year-round, which is likely to require developing a local following while capturing interest from travelers headed to and from Chelan.
Highway traffic changes with the seasons.
“It slows down in the winter, but it’s still busy on weekends,” she said. “And we still have a lot of people in the community who might be interested in coffee and a sandwich on a daily basis.”
Martin is working with the economic development council on some grant funds that could help them expand the idea.
“We’ll see if the grant money comes through,” she said. “We want to be conservative to start and prove the concept.”
Expansion would include adding more electrical pedestals for additional food trucks.
“There’s a cost to that. We’re waiting to see if we have demand,” she said.
If all goes well, the longer-term vision is to add food truck support services — like a commercial kitchen where food truck owners could prepare their food.
This is the Martins’ first commercial venture. They also own several rental homes in the region.
“The permitting process was new to us,” she said. ”We learned a lot working with the city of Entiat. They were terrific. And the Chelan County PUD has been very helpful. They helped us navigate through the different processes.”
Each food truck handles its own permitting requirements, with business licenses and the health district.
“It’s really fun and exciting. We’re hopeful that it will help other local businesses get started,” she said.
For information on Tulla’s Food Truck Alley, call Martin at 509-387-3112, or check out Tulla’s Sweet Retreat’s Facebook page.