By Arielle Dollinger
A giant, two-dimensional cupcake with cloud-like frosting lives on the back wall of a vehicle that carries its three-dimensional counterparts.
The truck, which transports cupcakes to festivals, weddings and the parking lots of a few consenting Long Island shops, was born three years ago of Blondie’s Bake Shop owner Jess Kennaugh’s desire to get into the bakery business.
“I wanted to open a bakery, and I was having a hard time finding a spot that was going to get enough traffic, get enough foot traffic, and have a rent that I could swing,” said the owner of the Centerport bakery. “I was noticing in the city that food trucks were… taking off, but I wasn’t really seeing any here on the island.”
She designed the truck and had it made in New Jersey, and then, “sort of accidentally simultaneously,” found the bakery’s current storefront.
“It wasn’t the original plan to do both at the same time, but that is what happened,” said Kennaugh, who worked for A Rise Above Bake Shop in Huntington village for 13 years – through high school, college and beyond.
And so, three or four days a week – so long as Kennaugh can staff both the shop and the truck – the truck traverses the island’s roads. Depending on its destination, the truck’s contents vary. There are always cupcakes, Kennaugh said, and the rest of the menu changes based on time of day and other vendors that will be at events.
For a morning stop, she will bring breakfast; later in the day, she will bring such options as chicken and waffles, made-to-order grilled cheese sandwiches and the grilled macaroni and cheese sandwich.
Lately, Kennaugh said, the truck has seen an increasing number of weddings.
“Where maybe photo booths were ‘the thing’ for a little while, I think that food trucks at your wedding might be taking off,” she said, noting that she brought the truck to one wedding expo at a vineyard and has seen business because of it.
The idea is a “very smart way to market the business,” according to marketing expert Mindy Wolfle.
“You have over 100 customers right off the bat and they don’t have to pay for anything because they’re guests of the wedding, and they’re turned onto the business,” said Wolfle, president of Neptune Marketing LLC. “And, you have to figure that most people at a local wedding are local, so you have a whole slew of potential customers there.”
Food trucks in general, Wolfle said, make up what is now “a huge industry… with great popularity.”
“It’s a terrific way to do business,” she said. “Their very business is their marketing tool… They don’t need a sign in front of a store; they are the sign.”
While some are extensions of “brick-and-mortar” restaurants, others operate solely out of the truck – an aspect that Wolfle said gives owners freedom.
“They’re their own boss, they pick a locale,” she said. “There’s endless possibilities about where they could be, as long as they don’t meet any resistance from where they want to locate themselves. And I’m sure that’s something they have to deal with.”
To operate a food truck in Huntington, vendors must acquire county health permits and a peddler’s permit from the Town clerk’s office, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.
When vendors do acquire their peddler’s permits, Kennaugh said, they also receive “a pretty hefty packet” detailing the streets on which they are not allowed to park the trucks.
“That includes most every street in Huntington village,” she said. “That was a little bit discouraging… but I think it is primarily because they want to protect their brick-and-mortar [businesses], which I appreciate.”
The restrictions have not presented a “giant obstacle,” she said.
Among a few other locations, Park Avenue’s Ripe Art Gallery gave Kennaugh permission to park her truck in its gravel parking lot when she wants to, Kennaugh said. Those driving to work do not typically factor in the time to stop for a cupcake or breakfast item during their morning commutes, she said; but, she noted, if she could establish consistency in where and when the truck appeared, business might pick up.