Food truck pioneer reveals the local food that could go into Reno Public Market
Panera need not apply.
Nor any other national chains folks go ga-ga for when those chains arrive (or are rumored to be arriving) in town.
The food hall at Reno Public Market is going to be for the independents.
“That’s my directive: no chains,” said Steve Schroeder, founder of Food Truck Friday, the region’s largest food truck gathering, who is recruiting vendors for the food hall, part of the $40 million remaking of the old Shoppers Square center on West Plumb Lane.
That directive comes, well, directly from the principals of the project: Doug Wiele, founder of developer Foothill Partners, and Rick Casazza, a commercial Realtor whose family owned the center.
“The consumer has moved beyond standardized merchandising,” Wiele said. “People are looking for something local, true to the place. There’ something different when you walk up, and there’s someone grilling and slicing the steak for your street taco.
“It’s being made here instead of being made elsewhere and shipped here. If you have a Subway in your food hall, you don’t have a food hall.”
Food hall vendors inspired by food trucks
The 16,000-square-foot food hall will feature stalls for up to 20 or so vendors, with Fifty Fifty Brewing Co. out of Truckee anchoring the hall at one end and a not-yet-chosen restaurant at the other.
(The national Sprouts market going into the project will not be part of the food hall.)
The vendors will be independent businesses renting the stalls, determining their menus and sharing common seating.
“It’s taking Reno food truck culture and giving it a year-round presence (indoors) and mixing that with the entrepreneurial vibe of Midtown and Wells Avenue,” Wiele said.
Because of this approach, Schroeder was the obvious choice to help recruit vendors, the developers said, given his standing in and longtime connections to the food truck community.
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Interested vendors: Asian, Cajun, Hawaiian, vegan and more
Last March, Schroeder began “putting the word out, meeting with people, starting talks with people” about the food hall. To date, he said, his recruit list runs to about 25 vendors of varying degrees of interest and commitment, all from the region.
These vendors range from deli, Hawaiian and vegetarian/vegan outfits to Cajun, Asian and chicken wing operations to street tacos and three suppliers of baked goods. Still needed: inquiries from coffee companies.
Some potential vendors look on the food hall, Schroeder said, as an opportunity for a retail presence without the time and expense of a restaurant, Others “are restaurateurs already and see it as a way to test menus and concepts. They look at it as a start-up.”
Schroeder said he wanted the mix of vendors “to really represent Reno, to make the food hall a destination and a place you can go on a daily basis. That will be the draw to our public here.”
Schroeder added the initial signing of vendors would depend on the pace of construction and the eventual layout and style of the food hall and the larger Reno Public Market. The developers estimated lease signing would not begin for at least six to eight months.
Meantime, potential vendors who would like to learn more about the food hall should email Schroeder at email@example.com.
For inspiration, a national public market tour
Last November, Wiele and Casazza, the two principals in Reno Public Market, went on a cross-country tour of public markets, not just to observe consumer behaviors or glean inspiration for Reno, but also to gain a better understanding of what actually constituted a public market or a food hall.
“This term was somewhat amorphous,” Wiele said. “The conclusion we came to was that these were really cultural experiences, shared experiences. That this was very much about being indigenous to the local community.”
Legacy Hall in Plano, Texas, drew praise for this sense of connectedness, with a space featuring only local vendors that were allowed to express their personalities in their stalls.
On the other hand, at Time Out Market New York, near the Brooklyn waterfront, “every stall had the same counter tops, stools, lighting, signs,” Wiele said. “It felt like a Westfield shopping mall rather than something indigenous to Brooklyn.”
Like culinary diversity, design diversity will be essential to creating the food hall experience at Reno Public Market. “We want to give (vendors) the freedom to make it their place in the neighborhood,” Casazza said.
And whatever you do, don’t call it a food court.