Food Truck Marketplace to be a new gathering place in Machias

MACHIAS — There’s an effort underway to put Machias on the map with a food truck marketplace.

It’s scheduled to open in January in the unincorporated area just north of Snohomish. The spot previously housed the Machias Nursery, 3730 South Machias Road.

Now, organizers have food trucks lined up to serve meals through December in front of the property. Parked there now are a cart that sells a hot dogs, including one with peanut butter, chocolate and bacon, and Atsukis, which makes sushi and Japanese fare.

“We’re giving the community a taste, no pun intended, of what we’re doing,” said Una Wirkebau-Hartt, who is spearheading the effort.

Meanwhile, organizers working to turn the 2-acre nursery site into the year-round Machias Food Truck Marketplace. It would have farmer’s markets, arts, crafts, games, live music, events, alcohol and, of course, food trucks.

“We want this to be a gathering place in the Machias community’s backyard,” Wirkebau-Hartt said. “This is a place to call theirs.”

Once it opens, the grounds would house up to three different food trucks at a time. The plan is to rotate among dozens of vendors so there’s always something new to eat and there’s enough business to go around, Wirkebau-Hartt said.

Plans call for areas with fire pits, tables and hay bales to sit on. The site is fenced so well-behaved dogs could roam around without being on a leash.

One greenhouse would house rotating vendors and a stage for live music. On certain days of the week, it may house a farmer’s market with locally produced goods and food. At other times, outside sellers would be welcome with arts, crafts and other merchandise. There also is a building where adults could enjoy beer, wine and spirits.

A second greenhouse is eyed as a space for children with sandboxes and toys. An area nearby could be used for games such as horse-shoe throwing, corn-hole tossing, bocce ball and other activities.

There’s plenty of parking and even a hitching post for horses. The market is across the road from the Centennial Trail and makes for a good stopping point between Snohomish and Lake Stevens, Wirkebau-Hartt said.

“It’ll be very rustic and fun,” she said. “It’s for folks who want to be off the beaten track.”

Food truck operators navigate stringent state, county and city regulations, which change depending on where they park.

Because Machias is an unincorporated area, the trucks at the marketplace will need to follow rules set by the Snohomish Health District and the state Department of Labor and Industries.

Norm Thomson, market organizer and owner of the Papa’s Woodfired Pizza food truck, said getting permits to operate in Snohomish County is more tedious and expensive than it is in other places. That’s why many food truck operators don’t want to come here, he said.

“It’s financially hindering to do business here,” Thomson said.

Heather Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Snohomish Health District, said food trucks with annual permits are held to similar standards as regular restaurants. There also are temporary permits that are not as strict but only allow the truck to operate at one location for a limited amount of time.

The Health District is getting ready to roll out a new permitting system in 2016. The hope is to streamline the process by allowing operators to apply for permits, get renewals, track progress and pay fees online, Thomas said.

Wirkebau-Hartt said she’d like to see the Washington Food Truck Association come together to lobby for a statewide system that makes it easier for roving restaurants to move from place to place. She also hopes to get Snohomish County food trucks to team up to better their business like local farms have done.

“There’s huge, untapped potential in here,” she said.

A grand opening party for the Machias Food Truck Marketplace is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. The festivities are expected to continue until just past midnight.

Tickets cost $40. For more information or to buy tickets, email machiasfoodtruckmarketplace@gmail.com.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports

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