Plans for Laveroni park food-coach cooking

By Union Democrat staff July 26, 2010 11:50 am

    Nearly two years after a popular hot dog stand moved out of downtown Groveland, visitors to Mary Laveroni Community Park may soon enjoy Mexican fast food for lunch and dinner.
    On Monday, Groveland Community Services District directors heard a proposal from Juan Martinez, a four-year Buck Meadows resident, to operate a Mexican food vending truck at the park.
        While the board appeared to support of Martinez’s proposal, members directed District Manager Jim Goodrich to further study the impact and other factors concerning the plan.
    Martinez has operated Martinez Catering Trucks since 2000, mainly in the Merced area. Recently, he has worked as the chef at the Buck Meadows Restaurant.
    The truck would serve popular Mexican dishes such as tacos, burritos, tortas, tostadas, enchiladas and chorizo. Martinez said he would open the truck between 11 a.m. and sunset.
    The board debated whether to collect a flat fee or a percentage fee for allowing Martinez to serve at the park.
    “I can guarantee a minimum flat fee of $3,000 a year,” said Martinez.
    Goodrich said he would prefer a flat fee, because a percentage would require district staff to audit Martinez’s books.
    Last year, negotiations for a contract renewal with the hot dog vendor, Dina and Kenneth Lawrence, went south after the board required a fee forcing the Lawrences to pay 10 percent of total sales to the district.
    “They wanted to increase our percentage by 5 percent and that was ridiculous. In this economy, you can’t do business that way,” Dina Lawrence said.
    According to Lawrence, the board forced them to take their hot dog stand to the front of a hardware store in Big Oak Flat.
    “This is way better than the par. Business has never been better. Personally, I don’t see a Mexican food truck working at the park,” Lawrence said.
    The largest issue for the board was the truck’s economic impact on Groveland’s existing Mexican restaurant, Cocina Michoacana.
    “We always like to encourage business, but it is important to hear their comments,” said Director Gus Allegri.
    Board member Steve Perreira took the opposite view.
    “I don’t think it matters what other businesses think.” Perreira said. “This is a way for the district to get revenue without doing any work, so we should do it.”
    Cocina Michoacana owner Saul Gonzalez, who operates with much higher overhead expenses, said the taco truck proposal could spell trouble for him.
    “This is a family business and we’ve owned it for 15 years. Another business would hurt us a lot,” Gonzalez said. “A pizza place just opened, and it hurt us. I’m just wondering how many businesses there can be in such a small town.”

    Contact Jonathan McCorkell at 588-4531.