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Food Truck Feud

Food truck and parking controversy fuels a shop feud in The Heights: More than a neighborhood dispute?

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19th Street Boomtown food truck customers using tables, leaving trash September 2013
These are the chairs in front of The Corridor at the heart of the dispute. Photo by Gilbert J. Perez
4 19th Street Boomtown food truck customers using tables, leaving trash September 2013
Perez shared this picture of Boomtown customers sitting in his chairs.  Photo by Gilbert J. Perez
2 19th Street Boomtown food truck customers using tables, leaving trash September 2013
Perez shared this picture of Boomtown customers sitting in his chairs.  Photo by Gilbert J. Perez
19th Street Boomtown food truck customers using tables, leaving trash September 2013
4 19th Street Boomtown food truck customers using tables, leaving trash September 2013
2 19th Street Boomtown food truck customers using tables, leaving trash September 2013

From the time he opened Boomtown Coffee in March 2012, Matthew Toomey has invited food trucks to park in front of his shop and serve food to his customers. He even installed a 50 amp plug so that trucks could plug in and not run their generators.

It's a symbiotic relationship. The trucks get a place to serve, and Boomtown gets increased drink sales at lunch time and in the evenings when people might not normally frequent a coffee shop. 

"(The trucks) bring people that may have never come to 19th street at all," Toomey tells CultureMap. "They support us. People get their entrees and come in, get a drink, maybe dessert. (If they) like the place, (they) come back when there’s not a food truck here." It's a 2013 Houston success story that demonstrates one aspect of a more walkable, denser city.

 "I don't think I'm being unreasonable. We need to be better neighbors."   

However, not all of Boomtown's neighbors like the increased traffic that food trucks bring. Gilbert Perez owns The Corridor, a small building next to Boomtown that contains a few shops.

"I don't think it's neighborly," Perez says.

He's tired of Boomtown customers that buy food from trucks, sit in the chairs in front of The Corridor and leave a mess when they're done. Perez has asked Boomtown employees to prevent their customers from sitting in his chairs.

"I don't think I'm being unreasonable," Perez says. "We need to be better neighbors." 

Naturally, Toomey doesn't see things quite the same way. "They (The Corridor) won't put signs up. They want us (to enforce their rules)." Toomey admits that in the past his employees have complied with Perez's requests, but those days are over.

"If he wants them enforced, he needs to enforce them," he says now. "None of these guys are on his clock."

One thing Perez does that Toomey doesn't think is very neighborly is harass his customers over who uses The Corridor's bike rack. "One of my employees rode his bike to work (and) parked the bike there. (Perez) asked us to question every customer in here to move their bike. It was one of our employees, so he gladly moved it. Other times it’s been people who aren’t actually here. He’ll demand we get these people to move. We ask everyone, and it’s no one’s bike." 

Perez also complains that the trucks take up too many of the limited spaces on the street, and that Toomey uses a car to block spots for the trucks to park.

"I love the idea of food trucks, but let's find a parking lot . . . " Perez says. "If you see a group of people (lined up in front of a truck), they think 'I'm not even going to go down there (to his shops).' "

He's taken numerous pictures of people standing on the sidewalk waiting for food, but Toomey says that when either the Houston Police Department or City of Houston health inspectors have come by they've found both Boomtown and the trucks are in compliance will all regulations.

Toomey says that he and Perez have traded emails about the problem, but they just don't see eye to eye. Toomey will continue to bring food trucks to Boomtown, because they're good for his business and his friends' businesses. Asked about his ideal solution, Toomey admits that he's not quite sure what it would be.

"I just would like people to be reasonable with their expectations and not demand things from people that people wouldn’t demand from you," he says.

 "I'm glad to work with anyone about anything. Let's just play nice."

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