The Truck Stops Here
Food Trucks and More at The Park…
The sun still has an hour or so before dusk, but it’s getting near bedtime for the grandkids. They wanted more time in the game area, then they didn’t, cueing Grandpa Brad Bring to stand to duty. He bids good evening to his wife, Heather, and daughter Rylan at one of the tables closest to the stage, takes two tykes by the hand and guides them, at their pace, across the dance area, toward the Lorenz gate.
Grandma Heather says this park has been a favorite gathering place for the Bring family for a couple of years now, back when Rylan moved into the new apartments on the new Market Street in downtown Redding. “We come down here just for the atmosphere, ambience,” she says. “And the kids just live right over there. It’s like this place connects us, and all of us, to the community.”
This place, known as The Park, indeed looks to be a community unto itself. Nestled against the west side of the historic Lorenz Hotel is a grassy lot, now securely fenced, and filled with a complex of tables and chairs and benches arranged and designed to bring people together. Add live music and a grassy dance floor and you have a place where hundreds of folks will come to stay and socialize for a while.
Another big draw for The Park is food and beverage. Up to a half-dozen clean, brightly colored food trucks form an arc leading to the hub of the business area, the bar. The mobile kitchens offer a range of delicacies, from American corn dogs to Thai spring rolls to Granny’s Grill Filipino Fusion, plus smoked barbecued meat and genuine Southern home cooking.
This place looks good, smells good and, if you plop yourself down in the midst of strangers and ask them what keeps bringing them back to The Park, it sounds good: This is a nice, clean family-friendly place. The food is great! It’s not like a restaurant, where you have to tie the kids down. Dogs are welcome! I’m shopping around for food service for a wedding in Coffee Creek, way up 60 miles in Trinity, and I’ll pay these guys to come!
One of these guys is Nathan Topete, owner of Tio Nate’s Tacos, run by him, his wife and a son. “He likes to work the window, because he likes making tips,” says Dad with a laugh. “Oh yeah, we’re busy. Being in The Park has exposed us to a lot of new people. I love meeting new people and watch them eat our food and give us feedback or tag us on social media. Todd does a really good job of creating a hub for people to come and enjoy their weekend.”
Todd Franklin is the man who put all this together a few years ago. He works out of the non-mobile bar, which he owns as a business on leased city property, as is the entire The Park. He mostly works on the deck serving from an outdoor tap, or prowling the grounds.
A former basketball coach at Simpson College, Franklin says his rounds might look casual, but there’s more going on. “I feel that I am a professional observer,” he says. “I might be talking or walking through The Park lighting fire pits and handing out free marshmallows to the kids, but even then I am observing. My biggest concern is always child safety. I have three children of my own, so understand it takes a village and we all need to look after each other.”
Franklin’s attention to park safety hasn’t gone unnoticed by Topete. “I did security for about 10 years. The first few nights we went out to The Park, I was like, man, they don’t have any security out here. And after being there several weekends in a row, I’m like, everybody’s here to be with their families and have a good time.”
Franklin got the inspiration from a food truck park he saw while visiting Oregon. He liked what he saw and he knew just the place for it in Redding. The City Council also liked the idea, and granted him a 10-year lease. Franklin worked with a designer to specifically get the best possible angles on seating for socialization.
When people get together in a place like this, good things can happen. Franklin says one of the best things he sees on his rounds is food vendors helping each other, citing, “I’ve seen food truck owners allow others to plug into their generators when one goes out, virtually keeping their competition open right next to them. This world truly is full of amazing people. I’m blessed that I get to hang out with many of them three nights a week.”
Sometimes good people help people by just doing their job.
June Bell-Bruns moved from North Carolina to Redding in 2017. She says she adjusted well, but there was one thing that plagued her. “I missed Southern home cooking,” she laments. “Nobody here knows how to make it right.” Then she tried Food Love at The Park. It may look like chicken with collard greens and macaroni and cheese to some people, but to Bell-Bruns, it was salvation.
While her emphatically satisfied customer bombarded her with praise, Food Love chef and owner Cristina Ferkey just took it in and smiled. She’d heard it before. She and her partner, Leander Douglass, had, as always, stocked enough food for 30 dinners. Last night they had sold out and closed early. Tonight she’s half-hoping they have food left over.
“If we have some left at the end of the shift, I make it into little hot meals, and I take it to areas where people hang around,” she says. “I know what it feels like to feel hungry. Everybody deserves a hot meal.” •
The Park • 1552 Placer St., Redding
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 6-10 pm • No admission fee