Little Rock's New Food Truck Court and Why it Can Succeed

Little Rock’s food truck scene is a hodgepodge of quality businesses, interesting characters and a wide diversity of food to explore. What it isn’t is centralized. Much of that is the nature of the business, with truck operators packing up to different locations throughout the week to meet customers where they are. Still, it’s nice to have a reliable, consistent location where diners know they can always find good food. That’s the goal of The Food Truck Stop @ Station 801, which opened on Tuesday. This new food truck hub is the brainchild of Little Rock businessmen Scott Hamilton and Buddy Rawls.
“We were standing here one day and came up with the concept of an indoor food truck court,” says Hamilton. “In the summer, the food trucks are typically outside, we had a few here, and we just thought it would be cool to turn this into a dining hall for the trucks.”

Station 801 is located at Chester St. and 8th St. near downtown. The location was recently an auto repair shop. Hamilton and Rawls converted the garage area into a dining room that seats 75 people. The register and office area is now the permanent home of Brown Sugar Bakeshop, which moved from 3rd Street last month.
“We got lucky, we found out they were changing up their operation and invited them to take a look,” says Hamilton. “We thought they were a great compliment to the food trucks, you just can’t pass that up.”
The plans are to have 6–7 trucks every weekday that rotate out on a regular basis. If you’ve attended the Main Street Food Truck Festival, you know the city has dozens of trucks. Hopefully, the constant rotation at The Food Truck Stop will mean a fresh experience each and every week.

Longtime Little Rock food lovers no doubt remember the failed food truck court experiment from 2012. University Market at Four Corners started off hot but quickly saw crowds die down. It was soon too quiet to sustain business and died less than a year after opening. And while its understandable that many will predict the same for The Food Truck Stop, there are a host of reasons I’m more optimistic this time around.

  • The quality of the trucks – This can’t be overstated. Even brand new trucks in 2016 are making better food than almost all the trucks from four years ago. There’s a good reason why only one or two trucks from that year are still around today. Little Rock’s food trucks make food at a tremendous level that helps make for loyal customers.
  • The dining area – University Market never figured this out, leaving people to eat on the pavement or use the trunks of their cars as a dining surface. That gimmick has a short life span. In contrast, the dining area at The Food Truck Stop is quite nice. When I was there, it was 32 degrees outside, but the dining room was so warm that the garage door was cracked to let in some air. It won’t be the dining conditions that keep you from coming back.
  • The creature comforts – It’s not just a warm dining room that will have you relaxed. The Food Truck Stop also features free Wi-Fi, restrooms and a large-screen television. Parking can be tricky, but its clear Hamilton and Rawls have designed their business with the customer in mind.
  • The bakery – Brown Sugar Bakeshop is no slouch. Kristi and April Williams have kept their business going since 2009, and their experience is evident in every bite. I couldn’t resist trying their Oreo cream pie while I was there, and it was every bit as delicious as it looks. Brown Sugar will be open before the trucks get there and after they leave, which gives customers yet another reason to visit.
  • The side business – Hamilton and Rawls aren’t limiting their profitability to the trucks. The Food Truck Stop is also available to rent out for private events, giving them another source of income. And those who reserve the space for an event are strongly encouraged to use one of the food trucks to cater, creating an even stronger relationship.

It’s easy to think that The Food Truck Stop will be a bust, but I believe it’s here to stay for a while. And given the wide range and high quality of the food trucks we have in Little Rock, having a central hub like this can only be viewed as a positive for the city’s culinary scene.

The Food Truck Stop @ Station 801
801 S. Chester St.
11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
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