The owner of Bend’s newest food-truck lot, Mikel Lomsky, decided to get into the business because he thought it would be simple.
His band, Alarm 58, was practicing in a garage near Staats Street and NW Arizona Avenue, and he could see how the empty lot next door would be a good no-frills location to host food trucks. His vision was to provide not much more than a parking lot and charge a low rent, so food purveyors could feel free to practice their “art,” he said.
“I thought doing a food-cart lot would be less expensive than doing a building,” said Lomsky, who owns other real estate in Bend. “It turned out to be one of the hardest things I’ve done.”
The Podski opened at 536 NW Arizona Ave. in May, which was two years after he first began planning it, Lomsky said. Lomsky is happy with the result, and he’s even planning an expansion with a 1,000 square-foot climate-controlled building. The path he took to this point, however, shows how city-required improvements can snowball into big capital investment.
“Two hundred thousand dollars later, here’s what you see,” Lomsky said, as he gestured around the compact seating area, which filled with patrons around lunchtime on Wednesday. “Sidewalks and everything.”
The Bend Community Development Department required Lomsky to install a sidewalk on Staats Street and make improvements to the alley that serves The Podski. Those investments alone would have driven food trucks’ rent off the $600-per-month base he’d planned, and it wouldn’t have made much difference to his tenants’ bottom lines, he said.
So after consulting with future tenants, Lomsky said he decided to go all-in. He installed sewer and water lines, which allow the trucks to do a lot more business in a day. “Everybody said, ‘Give us full service. Our numbers are going to be better,’” Lomsky said. “And it’s true.”
Lomsky acknowledges that the city of Bend is not solely responsible for the delay in his opening. The Podski’s site plan was approved in May 2017.
The Podski also has large portable bathrooms, and while there’s no permanent building yet, one of the vendors is a beer stand.
Lomsky charges all-inclusive rent of around $1,000 a month, but Ron Hansen, who co-owns the Thailandia truck, said that’s not a burden for a truck where the typical order costs $12. “If you have a reputation, the rent is almost incidental,” he said. “Our labor and supplies cost is way, way higher.”
Lomsky’s expansion plan, which he filed with the city this month, will make The Podski much more like its competitors in Bend, The Lot and On Tap, but he said there’s still one difference. He won’t dictate food-truck hours.
That was enough to lure Thailandia away from The Lot, said Hansen.
“The reason we decided to move is primarily for working flexibility,” Hansen said. His wife, Maliwan Hansen, is the cook and driving force behind Thailandia, and the couple has a 2-week-old baby. “With my wife being pregnant and delivering, we knew we didn’t want to be open seven days a week.”
The Lot owner David Staley couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Hansen acknowledged that consistency is important to customers. At The Podski, Thailandia has chosen to close on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because other trucks are closed on Sundays and Mondays, he said.
Lomsky said he plans to remain in his role as landlord and won’t take a direct stake in alcohol sales. That makes it easier to allow food trucks to run their businesses the way they see fit, he said.
“The vibe down here, people really like,” Lomsky said. “It transfers from the cart owners.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7860, firstname.lastname@example.org