Spreading the Love: Cupcake bakers re-enter Portland food truck arena
PORTLAND — Love Cupcakes, known for the green-and-pink 1960s trailer that has become a Route 1 fixture in Falmouth, is expanding to the Old Port this summer with a new food truck.
Owners Anna and Joey Turcotte tested the Portland food truck waters in 2012, the first business to do so after the city gave food trucks the OK. Now they plan to do it again with a new truck, hoping to drum up attention for the catering side of their business in the process.
"I'm excited, kind of," Anna Turcotte said, noting that she is hesitant about the new venture because selling cupcakes consistently in Portland has proved difficult. "We really just want exposure. We don't have extremely high hopes for Portland, but I see no reason why it won't go well."
The newly remodeled truck has the same color scheme of the little trailer and will be located in a parking lot at Fore and Center streets. They plan to be open dessert hours, 7-10 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and most Saturdays, if they don't have an event to cater.
Turcotte said the new truck will give her more freedom and mobility to cater events like weddings and bridal showers, which have been much more successful, but previously required her to have more help.
"With a trailer, I was really dependent on my husband because I didn't know how to drive with it," she said. "Now I can go do events by myself."
Turcotte said most of the catering she does is nearby, but recently she went as far south as York in the new truck.
The Turcottes purchased the truck for $900, had a friend do maintenance work and Joey Turcotte remodeled the interior and painted it.
Turcotte started the business after deciding she wanted to make a career change from social work. She had grown up baking with her mom, although never commercially, and thought selling cupcakes out of a trailer would be fun, she said.
The couple, who live in Portland, opened the cupcake business in 2011, something Turcotte said has been both rewarding and challenging.
"It's really funny what you find yourself doing," she said, noting that she was lugging around the giant cupcake prop that sits atop her roadside stand for months, struggling to strap it into her Prius to take home everyday so it wouldn't get stolen.
Recently, she found a safe place to store it.
One of the latest challenges has been the new truck, not because it's difficult to drive, but because the heat is stuck on high at the peak of summer.
"The things you do when you're a start-up company, it can really be a little degrading," she said, "but someone has to do it."
And after being the only food truck in Portland last year, Love Cupcakes is joined by 10 others this year, according to the city clerk's office.
Turcotte said part of the hesitancy for food trucks is that Portland – both the city government and residents – is still trying to understand how the mobile food vendors work.
"I don't think Portland has really figured out how to use food trucks yet," she said, adding that in a small city like Portland, it's hard for trucks to move around like they would in a larger city like New York.
"People in Portland are not following their Facebook and Twitter to see where the trucks are going to be everyday. Consistency is the most important thing right now."
The rules governing food trucks also make the mobile-food business difficult, something critics pointed to last year when there was a conspicuous dearth of trucks after the city passed the rules.
One of those complaints is that the city does not allow for clustering of trucks, which Turcotte said could help raise the visibility and accessibility of food trucks.
The rules also confine mobile food vendors to some city parks, a few streets around the edges of downtown and industrial off-peninsula locations between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The rules ban food trucks from operating within 65 feet of any working kitchen on the peninsula, and within 200 feet from other commercial kitchens.
Food trucks can operate on private property in non-residential sections of the city during the day, and anywhere during the off-hours, although they have to pay a $110 building permit for each private location on top of the $640 permit to operate.
"It gets pricey when you just want to try out a spot," Turcotte said. "The great thing about being a food truck is that you can move around."
And while Turcotte has had to deal with the difficulties of a new business, including navigating new city ordinances, she said the hard work has paid off.
"It's been a lot of fun," she said. "A lot of work, but a lot of fun."