Food truck pavilion targets spring opening

First stop – Kennewick. Followed by the remainder of the Tri-Cities, every college town, and then the rest of America. Chris Corbin’s dream for his food truck pavilion has no bounds – and why should it?

He’s already overcome a huge obstacle by cementing private financing for the $3.5 million development after getting turned down by every bank he asked. He finally broke ground on his passion project in late January and is planning a late spring opening.

“Supplies come and go, so you never know, but we are targeting May 19,” Corbin said.

When his vision comes to fruition, Summer’s Hub, or “The Hub,” will include a 7,000-square-foot building with a Brady’s Brats & Burgers at the center.

It will be the second location for the fast casual restaurant that first opened in Sandy, Oregon. Corbin owns Brady’s, which will offer communal seating for those who patronize its counter service or one of the expected 28 food trucks parked around the building with an overhanging roof for customers to place orders while protected from the elements.

“It will have mostly picnic-style bench seating but possibly some tables and chairs as well,” Corbin said. “I want to go for family style, so groups of six can still sit together. This town is a food truck town and some people don’t know it.”

Corbin said he elaborated on the original design found at Happy Valley Station near Portland, with help from the Happy Valley owner, who opened her site in 2015. While others have sprung up since, including The Yard Food Park in Salem, Oregon, “they don’t have my vision,” Corbin said.

“Those places are fantastic, but it’s a little cramped at times. There’s not a lot of outdoor seating, the parking lot is teeny, and these things can affect your experience as a consumer. I want you to come back with your family, including your grandma who’s never been to a food truck because there’s no handicapped parking, they’re not safe, and there’s no air conditioning. I wanted to solve all that and then some.”

Some of the extras offered at Summer’s Hub, named for Corbin’s daughter, include a stage for concerts, outdoor seating, plus a section of the 178-stall parking lot dedicated to produce vendors for a seasonal farmers market.

Corbin expects the site to be open every day of the week and include special events to continually draw customers in, like an Octoberfest, taco truck contests, a wine takeover, paint night, trivia night, and even yoga on summer weekend mornings.

“The goal would be every day there’s something happening that brings people to The Hub,” he said.

The Hub will be at 6481 W. Skagit Ave. in Kennewick, next door to Chuck E. Cheese, which is managed by Corbin and owned by his parents.

He expects to share overflow parking with the pizza arcade, allowing each to use the other’s spaces if needed.

A gathering place

The 3 acres were once owned by the Kennewick Irrigation District and purchased for $500,000.

Corbin thinks foot traffic from the nearby playfields, car dealership and retail along West Canal Drive will put business “over the moon.”

He expects car clubs and other groups will find this the perfect venue to gather.

“There’s so many different groups and every group needs a place, and we’re opening our arms to them. It’s safe, casual and right in the heart of town,” he said.

Summer’s Hub will offer picnic-style communal seating, making it an ideal spot for large groups to meet and sample food from dozens of food trucks, said owner Chris Corbin.(Courtesy Chris Corbin)

Food trucks will lease their spots, likely to be $1,200 a month for a one-year tenancy with discounts available for those who commit prior to the pavilion’s opening.

The price will include everything except natural gas, which means security, pest control and more. Corbin recognizes the setup isn’t for every owner, as they’ll have to abide by operating rules and must be open about eight hours a day, seven days a week, in the same way a food court is always open at a mall.

“People expect when they go (to the mall), Sbarro or Ivar’s will be open.”

He believes the structure is necessary for the success of the greater good.

“One of the problems with food trucks is, you go to your favorite place, and it’s closed, or it’s gone. I’m going to overcome that,” Corbin said. “I’m only looking for long-term leases. It’s not a place where you just come in for the weekend, and the next weekend you cater a wedding. It’s not for everybody, but I think people will do so much business, they’ll buy a second food truck just for wedding season.”

KC’s Biscuits and BBQ wants in

Charlotte Williams sees all of this as a huge draw and contacted Corbin as soon as she heard about the project, including her name among the 40 on the waiting list.

“I’m all over it. I want to be in there in the worst way,” she said.

The owner and pit master of KC’s Biscuits and BBQ said she currently pays a similar price as The Hub’s rates for her spot in the parking lot of Bella’s Furniture at 7425 W. Clearwater Ave.

She’s just as effusive about the project as Corbin: “I contacted him immediately the moment I heard about it.”

Nearing her one-year anniversary of opening in early May, Williams feels the timing is right to change locations and believes her regular customers will follow.

“I’m more prepared for a busier spot than I would have been a year ago. Right now, we’re not on their destination, but with this, people are already on their way to Best Buy, a car dealership or the baseball fields that don’t always have concessions open,” she said.

KC’s will remain at its spot outside Bella’s until June and expects to be part of the Summer’s Hub launch.

While Williams is familiar with a long-term lease that keeps her in the same location, Corbin recognizes many mobile proprietors have a hard time finding a consistent place to serve customers, and even when they do, there are drawbacks.

“People are going to get tons more foot traffic than they would behind a car wash. It’s got better security than the car wash, where your compressor is stolen every other week. There’s often no parking and nowhere for customers to eat,” he said.

Williams’ setup would require a special spot for the size of her truck and a pit for smoking meat, but her truck is also one of the tenants expected to offer breakfast hours, keeping The Hub humming throughout the day.

Corbin is adding a commercial kitchen in the main building after hearing about a shortage of commissary kitchen space.

“For a little extra cost they’ll be able to whip out all their food right there,” he said.

Franchising the vision

Corbin expects to franchise his model for The Hub, never losing confidence that it will be successful despite being turned down by multiple banks while seeking financing to launch.

“All the banks loved it, but they want a proven business model; they don’t want to loan money to the first person who does it,” he said.

He hopes to chart a course for future visionaries to adopt the same model.

“Anybody can go into a building and open a salon, but Supercuts has the franchise. I think this idea should be in every town. It’s scalable to a small town, with just eight trucks, or on a larger size with an amphitheater. There’s not a place like this in America. There are other versions, but nothing like this one,” he said.

Corbin said he also hopes to franchise Brady’s. “I put my own business on the inside, and I want that to succeed. I’m the landlord and the tenant, too,” he said.

There are 20 names on the waiting list for the 45 spots intended for the farmers market, with no leases currently in place for that offering or the truck stalls.

People can still reach out to Corbin if interested in being a part of the project being built by MH Construction. Contact: thehubkennewick@gmail.com.

 

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