Ron Smith, proprietor of The Root Cellar, a store that sells all local, farm fresh foods, is launching a new project that combines some of Louisville’s favorite trends: a food truck, local eats and crowdsourcing.
Smith is planning a mobile food truck, like a farmers market on wheels, to sell wares in West End neighborhoods where fresh food is less plentiful.
“(The project) revolves around our mission, which is to bring food to areas that don’t have access to it,” he said.
Smith launched a crowdsourcing effort Friday on Kickstarter, the most popular online fundraising platform, asking the community to help pitch in the $10,000 it will take to purchase and refurbish the truck, install coolers for milk and cheese, a freezer for meats and a cash register.
He said he’d like to have the ability to accept EBT payments from those who receive federal food assistance.
Smith said he also hopes to install a conversion system that will allow the truck to run on used vegetable oil instead of gas. He’s already found the right vehicle, he said. It’s a former TARC-3 bus owned by Valet Medical Transportation. He’s had mechanics examine it, and they’ve given it a seal of approval, he said.
The mobile truck will allow Smith to try different neighborhoods to see where there is the most interest.
“It’s a way for me to test that market space,” he said.
If he finds locations that are particularly popular, he said, he can set up regular days and hours there, and maybe even shop around for a permanent storefront.
On the flip side, if he tries spots where no one shows up, he’ll know to move on.
“I won’t stay,” he said. “It takes two to be in a retail exchange.”
The city has identified the West End as a priority for targeted healthy food efforts. There’s one grocery store for every 25,000 residents in the West End and some downtown areas whereas there is one per every 12,500 people in the rest of the city .
Smith said he’s now working with council members from the West End districts to help form partnerships with organizations in the community, like churches and civic groups.
“You have to get that community buy-in,” he said.
He said that kind of outreach made all the difference to him when he opened a second Root Cellar location at 954 E. Kentucky Street in the Germantown neighborhood last fall.
The first Root Cellar is at 1484 S. Third Street in Old Louisville.
Smith sees the food truck as an extension of the mission and philosophy behind the stores.
“It’s one more step in changing the food paradigm in Louisville and getting different options,” he said.
Smith said he’ll continue to work on the project if the Kickstarter campaign fails, although it may take longer and be a paired down effort.
But, if it’s successful, he said he’d like to unveil the truck at the Louisville Independent Business Alliance’s Buy Local Fair on May 11.
Smith said he’d like to begin to ramp up community support as soon as possible.