Land of the Midnight Food Truck?

Think food trucks are a big city thing? Think again! Even the small town of Inuvik, NT is grappling with the trend, even though they have just one truck (actually it’s a trailer) called Ready Red’s, not to mention a climate that makes street vending realistic for just a few short months each year. Brick-and-mortar businesses have complained as have taxi drivers and even some residents. A similar situation has played out in dozens of towns and cities over the last six years or so, ever since the “modern” food truck boom began.1

With my passion for food trucks and the fact that I lived in Inuvik for eight years when I was a kid, I’m quite interested in the outcome of Ready Red’s fight. It’s fascinating to me that the same arguments are made again and again in different towns and cities. At the opposite end of the scale from Inuvik there’s New York, which has been dealing with complaints about food trucks for years. Some places clamp down on food trucks, others work hard to support them. Even locations that are relatively close together can have very different approaches; for instance, San Diego heavily regulates food trucks whereas Los Angeles is quite open to them.

Welcome to Inuvik, photo by Chris Harrison

In today’s Inuvik Drum, the news brief read:

“Following complaints about the Ready Red’s mobile food trailer parked near the Mad Trapper, the town’s bylaw review committee has recommended banning street venders from parking along Mackenzie Road in the core area.

Instead of using existing roadside parking spaces, the town’s bylaw amendment would move street venders on to private property, similar to how Bill Rutherford operates his grocery business.”

Bill Rutherford is affectionately known to locals as “Bill the Fruit Man”. He brings fresh produce from Whitehorse to Inuvik every three weeks in a large semi-trailer. I remember going to buy groceries with my parents from his truck, parked in an empty lot on the main street2. I guess you could say that was my first exposure to a “food truck”.

Josh Tyler is the owner of Ready Red’s and he was at Inuvik’s Town Council meeting last night to make his case. He also started an online petition that currently has over 270 signatures. Josh promised to have “a mob of people and supporters” with him at the meeting, and it sounds like he delivered. Mayor Floyd Roland said he had never seen such a turnout for a council meeting!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good for Ready Red’s. The proposed bylaw that would ban food trucks on town roads passed first and second reading. It still has to pass third reading before it would become an official town bylaw. If that happens, Ready Red’s would only be able to operate on private property3.

Downtown Inuvik

That’s a photo of Inuvik’s main street, Mackenzie Road, in the winter, which is pretty much how I remember it. You’d think this would be a big enough barrier for food trucks in the north! Ready Red’s parks just to the left of where this photo was taken.

Should towns and cities embrace food trucks? I’m inclined to say yes, because I think food trucks bring more than just good food to the table – they also promote street activity. At least one study makes a strong economic case for food trucks too (PDF):

“Street sellers can create jobs, help keep streets safe, give consumers the goods and services they want and add to the vitality of cities. But for that to happen, cities must get rid of the convoluted and protectionist laws that stand in vendors’ ways.”

The authors of that report recommend eliminating or revising obsolete restrictions, repealing bans on street vending, repealing proximity restrictions, streamlining the permit process, and providing clear, simple, and modern rules that are narrowly tailor to address health and safety issues. “Then they should get out of the way and let vendors work.”

We’ll have to wait and see if Inuvik decides to put up barriers or instead decides to let food trucks flourish. Inuvik Town Council meets on the 2nd and 4th Monday and Wednesday of each month, so their next meeting will take place May 26. Minutes from last night’s meeting will eventually be posted on their website.

If you’re in Edmonton, don’t miss our first What the Truck?! of the season, taking place on 104 Street on May 24. RSVP on Facebook!

  1. Richard J. S. Gutman, author of “American Diner: Then & Now”, estimates the food truck industry can be traced back to Walter Scott who back in 1872 parked a wagon in front of a local newspaper office in Providence, R.I. and sold sandwiches and pies. The beginning of the modern food truck era is generally believed to coincide with the popular Kogi Korean BBQ truck, which burst on to the scene using social media about six years ago. See: Who Made That Food Truck? 

  2. Has Inuvik changed much since I lived there? Some things change, some stay the same. The fruit man still sells his produce, but my elementary school was demolished a few weeks ago

  3. I’m not 100% certain, but it looks like Ready Red’s began life on the sidewalk, as a hot dog and burger stand, back in 2011. 

I'm sad to see CNET's yellow and green go

cnet Earlier this week, Dan Farber posted a preview of CNET’s new, improved look. The main changes are to the logo (the pipe between the “c” and “net” is now gone, as you can see to the right) and the color scheme (yellow and green have been replaced with red, black, and grey). I’ll admit that I like the new design, because it is cleaner and simpler. At the same time however, a part of my own personal web history is dying along with the yellow and green.

When I was in junior high (grade seven if I remember correctly), living in Inuvik, NT, I had a summer job at the Inuvik Centennial Library. Part of my job was to scan in old yearbooks and other volumes so that they could be viewed (and presumably searched) using a computer. The other part of my job was to assist library patrons in using the computers and the web (this was around 1996, so the web was still new to most people). Both of these jobs meant that I had a lot of free time, either waiting for the slower scanner to do its thing, or waiting for people to need assistance. To pass the time I would read whatever technology news I could find online. In 1996, that meant CNET’s

Every morning, I was greeted by the yellow and green coloring of CNET’s properties. My passion (or addiction) for following tech news started at that library, reading I daresay I became quite fond of the yellow and green!

Over the years I have visited less frequently, of course, due to the appearance of blogs like TechCrunch and aggregators like Techmeme and FriendFeed. Occasionally I’ll still check it out, but usually I find myself clicking through from Techmeme. is no longer the destination for me.

For a trip down memory lane, check out the Wayback Machine. The version of from December 22, 1996 is particularly trippy!

So long, CNET yellow and green, and thanks for all the fish.

The Melting North

Post ImageNope, this isn’t about global warming – sorry activists (don’t you know most of that global warming stuff is hogwash anyway?) – it’s about Inuvik, where my parents live. Well, Inuvik and Aklavik. For those of you who don’t know, Inuvik is a planned town, created because Aklavik used to flood all the time. It’s been about fifty years since it last happened, but Aklavik has completely flooded again, forcing an evacuation:

River water started to flood the community Friday, and many roads are still underwater. The hamlet declared a state of emergency, flying 300 people, mostly seniors and children, out of the community over the weekend. Most of the evacuees are staying at Inuvik’s army barracks, while others are staying with relatives.

Apparently the water is really high in Inuvik too, according to my Dad:

There were ice chunks the size of cars. There were trees of all sizes. There was a 1000 litre fuel tank. There was a telephone pole. The annual spring break-up of the Mackenzie River is under way and it takes anything that stands in its way with it. This years break-up has the river higher than I have seen it before in my 16 years here.

The other interesting thing about break-up is that prices rise temporarily, as goods must be flown up. Normally trucks can drive up, crossing the river either using a ferry in the summer, or just driving right over the ice in the winter.

Hopefully the break-up will be over quickly. My Dad has a good set of pictures if you want to check it out, complete with telephone poles floating in the river!

Twelve Hours to Inuvik

Tom and I left Edmonton at 10 AM yesterday morning, as scheduled. We got to the airport relatively early, watched the sports news while we waited, and everything was going good. When we gave the people at the gate our boarding passes, we were told that our flight was “green stickered” for Inuvik, which meant that we were landing subject to weather. The last time my Mom flew, she had the same thing happen. In fifteen years of flying to and from Inuvik, I don’t ever recall a plane not being able to land.

We arrived in Yellowknife on time, the only stop between Edmonton and Inuvik, and we had to get off the plane. Tom seemed to think that was weird, saying usually we’re allowed to stay on the plane while they add some cargo and take some off, and get any new passengers. So we got off the plane, and it wasn’t very long before we were informed that our flight had been canceled due to poor weather in Inuvik. They told us the runway was in poor condition, and it was extremely foggy. Then we found out we’d be able to fly out of Yellowknife at 9:45 PM, almost 8 hours after we should have landed in Inuvik.

So Tom and I spent from noon yesterday until around 10:15 PM when the flight finally left in the Yellowknife airport, some pictures of which are here. You might think that’s not so bad, but with no Internet, only a few power outlets, no coffee shops or restaurants except for one that is mostly a bar, and absolutely no TV’s, people, or anything really, it was kind of dumb. Tom played FIFA 06 on his laptop while I tracked down open network ports and tried to get online. Throughout our time in the airport, we started to find out more and more about our canceled flight, from other people who came and went, and from my parents on the phone.

We were on First Air, and the other airline that flys to Inuvik is Canadian North. We found out that Canadian North landed in Inuvik at 2:30 PM, and hour later than scheduled, but only 15 minutes after our flight was supposed to land. So clearly, weather in Inuvik was not an issue. After we got to Inuvik at midnight, it became clear that First Air knew all along we wouldn’t be landing in the afternoon, and the weather excuse was exactly that, an excuse. Needless to say, I was not amused.

Anyway, I am in Inuvik now, finally. I don’t remember it being so dry here, but I keep shocking myself everywhere! There is so much snow it’s insane. Not as cold as it could be, but still cold. I haven’t really been anywhere in town yet, but already I have seen so much different. Lots of new hotels for the pipeline project. In fact, there are about 350 hotels room in a town of only 3000 people – insanity. More later!