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Food Truck Owner Weighs in on Controversy

Our lowdown on a weekly Wednesday fixture of the neighborhood.

Editor’s Note: Swork owner Patricia Neale Vuagniaux’s June 16 opinion piece, Food Trucks, Pot Shops Hurt Eagle Rock, evoked so many comments—121 so far on this site and an an additional 32 comments on The Eastsider, plus 57 votes on our Facebook poll for or against food trucks—that we thought we’d follow up on the debate with a short feature on the food truck that parks every Wednesday evening on Colorado Boulevard, near Swork, and partly prompted Vuagniaux’s article. Here’s our feature, straight from the reporter’s mouth:

After all the controversy surrounding food trucks in the heart of Eagle Rock, Eagle Rock Patch visited the "crime scene" this past Wednesday evening, June 22, seeking the other side of the story.

Parked in front of on Colorado Boulevard was the A ROCKin Ice Truck, with owner Thom Uber buzzing around, enthusiastically greeting customers and passersby. As this reporter arrived at 8.45 p.m., about seven people were milling around the truck, the tail end of about 100 orders that evening, according to Uber.

When asked about the grievances and accusations aired on the week before, Uber reiterated that he had tried to reach out to the owner of every time the last two weeks before opening up for business—and that it is his policy to reach an understanding with local businesses before opening up shop.

As evidence of his good relations with local owners, Uber pointed out that Health Department regulations require him to provide access to restroom facilities within 200 feet of his location. He produced "bathroom letters" allowing his customers access to restrooms in Dave's Chillin' and Grillin' and a nail salon nearby.

As to accusations—some of them aired by commentators on this site—of operating without a business license and not paying taxes, Uber said that he holds business licenses in L.A. County (which supposedly is also valid for L.A. City), West Hollywood, and Santa Monica.

As he expands his nine-week old business, he said he would also be applying for business licenses in other municipalities. And what he's especially proud of is his Health Department Inspection grade, on which he scored 96 and earned an A, (evidently disproving any "roach coach" clichés).

Dave Evans, owner of , just a sandwich-munching walk from Swork, says he welcomes the truck's presence in front of his restaurant. His sales have held up steadily in the three weeks Uber has parked in Eagle Rock, says Evans, pointing out that usually he experiences a dip in sales as students leave town for the summer.

Evans says he has even seen a 3-4 percent increase in his sales since Uber has started mentioning the sandwich shop on Twitter.

As for any suggestion of business-related conflict, Evans says he doesn't see one between his smoothies and Uber's shaved ice and often enjoys one after he shuts down his shop for the evening (he has started staying open later for the customers that Uber attracts).

Uber also believes that his shaved ice truck does not threaten the profits of any business on the block. If anything, he says, often his customers will show up with a Swork coffee in hand. Uber’s bottom line, he says, is that he does not want to compete with local owners—rather, he wants to partner and cross-promote with them.

After closing up, Uber makes a somewhat conspicuous effort to clean up the sidewalk. He does this every week, he says, and hopes that he and any angered business owners can come to a mutually beneficial understanding.

Terry G. June 29, 2011 at 07:52 PM
So, were the ices any good?
Philipp Sander June 30, 2011 at 01:48 AM
To add a bit of east coast perspective to the discussion: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/29/dining/food-trucks-shooed-from-midtown.html
Ajay Singh (Editor) June 30, 2011 at 07:47 AM
Mark: A serving of shaved ice costs $6. The nearby nail salon is Ciao Bella ("Hello, Beautiful" in Italian).
Mark June 30, 2011 at 09:16 PM
@Ajay Thanks.
Marcos El Malo July 02, 2011 at 05:52 AM
When I lived in the neighborhood, Dave was always cool about me bringing in an ice coffee or whatever from Swork when I came in for one of his amazing sandwiches. I never got the same vibe at Swork. When I asked an employee (who shall not be named) if it was OK to eat my sandwich from Dave's with my Swork coffee, he or she said, "Just don't let the owner see it." I think Patricia's real problem is the Starbuck's by the Walgreen's Pharmacy, but there's not a lot she can do about that. However, picking on the snow cone truck isn't going to solve her problems. I'd guess she's just made them worse by alienating some of her customers.
Ajay Singh (Editor) July 02, 2011 at 09:25 AM
Marcos—appreciate your point. From what I hear, though, if it weren't for Patricia—and Swork—there would probably be no Starbucks down the boulevard. It was Swork that played a key role in spurring business development in Eagle Rock. Before Swork, Starbucks evidently *refused*—many times—to open shop in Eagle Rock, when approached by community leaders.
Marcos El Malo July 02, 2011 at 02:48 PM
A response to your points, in order: 1) Businesses don't own the parking spots in front of their stores. There is also quite a bit of parking nearby this particular corner in the lot behind the stores there on Colorado and Eaglerock. 2) Perhaps that would be interesting, perhaps not. 3) Ajay does a competent job by current standards of Journalism. This is an interactive forum, so you can ask for clarifications and details, as you did, and get answers. No need to make it a personal attack, though. The details you most urgently needed aren't relevant to the story. And lastly, you apparently missed an important detail in your search for irrelevant details. Uber has tried to contact her mutiple times. See the 4th paragraph.

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