After speaking up in favour of food trucks, Collingwood residents and visitors can now fill up on Indian cuisine, sandwiches, hot dogs and shaved ice while spending the day at Millennium Park.
There are four food trucks, each a winner of the town's vendor licence lottery, parked at the popular park for the summer.
Until recently, the Town of Collingwood’s business licensing had not been updated in over a decade, which made the requirements to register as a food vendor a little tricky. But a recent bylaw change now allows food trucks in parks across Collingwood.
The change came after the town put out a survey on their Engage Collingwood page to gather public input into the subject and received feedback overwhelmingly in favour (97%) of the idea.
On Mar. 21, the amendment to the bylaw was officially enacted and passed.
So when two frequent visitors to Millennium Park, Brandon Rodger and Aarynne Dawson, heard the news, they got to work. The couple met working at a restaurant in Blue Mountain Village years ago; both spent the majority of their career working in the industry and it had always been a dream of Rodger’s to own something of his own.
“We thought, let’s do it,” Rodger said. “We jumped on it.”
They came up with a business idea and submitted an application to the town for one of the four spots available at Millennium Park, and Strake Sandwich Co. was born. They officially opened on Jun. 3, with Dawson running the front-of-house operations and Rodger working his magic in the kitchen. While the weeks leading up to their opening were a bit of a whirlwind, both said they were driven by the fact that they were now in charge of their own hours and serving a menu they created all themselves.
“I have tried to be creative in the past and I was never really given the outlet,” said Rodger. “Now I can do whatever I want.”
The inspiration for the menu was simple: “Who doesn’t like sandwiches?” Rodger joked.
He said he wanted to make sure he had something for everyone, from chicken, beef, and pork, to options for vegans, vegetarians, and classic kid's meals. They even make a homemade ice cream sandwich for dessert.
“Food trucks are trending again,” added Dawson. “We love the scene behind it. It’s a relaxed, casual vibe.”
Lisa Underwood, owner of Lisa-Marie’s Shaved Ice and also in her first season of business, agreed.
Shaved ice is a Hawaiian-inspired ice-based dessert made by shaving a block of ice and flavoring it with syrup and other sweet ingredients. Underwood, a Collingwood native, had always dreamed of opening an ice cream truck. But when she started researching further, she realized there were only so many things you could do to make an ice cream truck unique.
“I wanted to do something so different, but still the same idea of a refreshing summer treat, and shaved ice kept coming up,” said Underwood. So she got a trailer custom-made by a company in Hamilton and spent the winter researching everything she needed to know about the Hawaiian-inspired dessert.
Underwood wasn’t the only vendor who applied for the sweets and treats category, so the spot at Millennium Park went to a lottery system — and her name happened to be drawn.
“Working with the Town of Collingwood has been great,” said Underwood. “The fact that they are allowing this to happen just shows they are moving forward with concepts that need to happen.”
Conversely, the other vendors that occupy the last two spots at Millennium Park are seasoned pros in their own regard. Taj Grace of India opened in 2020 and for the past two summers, it was the only vendor that served food consistently at Millennium Park.
“It’s a beautiful location,” said Taj Channa, who runs the family-owned food truck that specializes in home-style Indian cooking. “The different categories and mix of cultures compliment each other well.”
The Chipper Truck, which offers deep-fried hot dogs and french fries fried in beef drippings, is in its second generation of ownership. Mark McCarthy took over the truck after his father retired a few years ago. Pre-COVID, they used to take the truck to different festivals and fairs throughout Ontario, and this is their first summer back after the pandemic.
“All the vendors work well together, they really compliment each other,” said McCarthy.
The park has also been set up with picnic tables and different lounge space for people to enjoy their meals. Each vendor has its own hours and some occasionally leave to fulfil private event requests, but for the most part, all four of them will be found at Millennium Park for the duration of the summer.