Albany’s first food cart and food truck pod, the Barn at Hickory Station, opened in late June with five eateries.
But more are on the way for the North Albany business, possibly later this summer, said Brian Hovelsrud, who owns the business with his family and high school friend Jason Crow.
“Our ideal number of carts is 10,” Hovelsrud said. “There’s never an argument about what to get to eat, because everybody can get what they want.”
So far, the carts included are: High on the Hog, a barbecue joint with another cart in Salem; Dreaming of Sushi, a brand new food cart; Happenings Food Truck, formerly of Lebanon, which serves fajitas-style tacos and more; Ma’s Delicious Food, formerly of Salem, which serves Texas-style food and fair offerings; and Mobile Street Sweets, which specializes in desserts and has a second cart in Salem.
Hovelsrud and Crow had been talking about bringing a food cart pod to Albany for about a decade, back when restaurants that weren’t brick and mortar operations were a bit of a rarity in the mid-Willamette Valley.
When the West Albany graduates decided to go into business, they, as well as Hosvelrud’s son Alex Hovelsrud, visited as many food cart pods they could and put together a plan.
“We basically figured out what everybody did right and what everybody did wrong,” Hovelsrud said. “The concept isn’t new. We’re just putting our flair to it.”
Crow said that one of the strengths of the Barn is that he and the Hovelsruds were very selective with what carts they chose to bring to Albany.
The outdoor area of the Barn is also an emphasis, though it remains a work in progress.
This summer, the owners hope to add outdoor bathrooms and create a 10,000-square-foot lawn space for playing outdoor games and relaxing with four-legged friends (on leashes).
An outdoor stage, for live music, is planned for spring 2020.
The patio roof of the barn also will be extended another 100 feet, creating more space for picnic tables.
“People want to be outside. We can provide a very large green space where people can do that all summer long,” Crow said. And, knowing Oregonians, people won’t mind being outside even if the weather is a bit dreary.
The business also has a family atmosphere, and while there are a few televisions, that isn’t an emphasis.
A private party room is available for class reunions, baby showers, fantasy football drafts and other events.
The Barn also will have 32 taps with microbrews, ciders, wine and kombucha. Nothing will be served from a can or bottle, owners said.
Jane Chen of Salem, the owner of Dreaming of Sushi, said that the location of the Barn seemed great, and being part of the first food cart pod in Linn and Benton counties was critical.
“When you come first, it’s always the best for business,” Chen added.
Jason McCrory of Happenings Food Truck said that the move to the Barn has led to an uptick of business after operating in Lebanon for the eatery’s first three months.
“There’s a lot of people around here that work and not a whole lot of food choices (in North Albany),” McCrory added.
Ken Hayes, who operates High on the Hog with his wife Armeda Hayes, said that Hovelsrud and Crowe tried his food, and essentially recruited him to join the Barn. The Memphis native was looking to open a second cart, so the timing was perfect.
“The response here has just been amazing,” Hayes said. “People here are so happy this is up and running.”
Sammy Carpio, who runs Ma’s Delicious Food with his wife Norma, agreed.
“They’re hungry for something like this here,” Carpio said. “The vibe is really good.”
Heidi Carver, owner of Mobile Street Sweets, said she knows the Barn will be a success.
“The food park industry is really hot. They’re popular. We serve a good quality food, and people just like them,” she said.
“It’s fast food but fresh,” added her daughter, Cammie Stice.
Matt Wood of Albany, at the Barn for dinner with his wife, daughter and dog last week, said that his family has been going to food cart pods in Salem and Portland to get their culinary fix.
“We love food carts. We’ve been thinking they need more here,” he added.
The Barn at Hickory Station, 640 Hickory Street NW, will initially be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. or later seven days a week.
For more information, go to the business’ Facebook page or call 541-666-2974.