Dogfather plans to keep ‘enemies’ closer with food truck commissary

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A local company is hoping to service Worcester’s growing food truck population with a state-of-the-art facility, the only one of its kind in Central Massachusetts.

The Dogfather, a family-owned and operated hot dog vending company that has three trucks it runs throughout the city, wants to open a 2,500-square-foot facility in the Canal District to service 15 to 20 trucks a day.

Mark Gallant, owner of The Dogfather, envisions a "food truck commissary" as a potential key cog in the city's burgeoning food-on-wheels industry.

Patrick Sargent / For Worcester Sun

Mark Gallant, owner of The Dogfather, envisions a “food truck commissary” as a potential key cog in the city’s burgeoning food-on-wheels industry.

Mark Gallant, owner of The Dogfather, hopes to utilize the company’s Harrison Street location to serve as a commissary that will allow other food trucks a convenient space to empty waste tanks, clean dishes, prepare food and restock inventory.

Gallant started an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of $12,500 to fund the facility’s buildout, pay for city permits, and install required electrical wiring and lighting, drains and shelving.

“I want it to be up and running by March 1,” Gallant said.

Gallant’s goal with the commissary is to draw other local food trucks together for things like the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe training and bulk purchasing for everything needed to improve the food truck scene in Worcester.

“My main goal is to help aspiring food trucks to navigate the permit process and get started on their dream,” Gallant wrote on his campaign page.

Although Gallant would like to service up to 20 trucks a day, he is aware that Worcester doesn’t have the market for that many yet.

“Right now, there are six food trucks permitted in Worcester. And I own three of them,” he said.

The Dogfather is, well, the godfather of Worcester food trucks and its owner is attempting to build a multifaceted business around the popular fleet of hot dog vans.

Patrick Sargent / For Worcester Sun

The Dogfather is, well, the godfather of Worcester food trucks and its owner is attempting to build a multifaceted business around the popular fleet of hot dog vans.

“The hope is that the city is going to come back and attract that crowd. And that’s the hook. The food trucks are going to need a place like this,” Gallant added.

Matthew Murray, owner of Press’n It, a food truck serving paninis, salads and soups, said, “I think it [the commissary] will make it easier for everyone. It’s hard to get things done in the cold weather. I think being inside and being able to service the truck will be great for all of us.”

Gallant, from Worcester, started The Dogfather in January 2010 with a single truck: The Dogfather One. Six years later, he has grown his company to three trucks: the aptly named Dogfather Two and Dogfather Three.

In 2008, the city filed an ordinance that allowed only one food truck at each local park in the city, a move Gallant describes as “when Worcester legislated food trucks almost out of business.”

“I personally support the legalization and permitting of food trucks. Food trucks have the flexibility to serve areas where fixed food establishments cannot, and serve food at more flexible hours and with lower fixed costs that would not be otherwise served,” Canal District Alliance and Canal District Association member John Giangregorio wrote in an email.

“Food trucks provide food service experience to workers and operators onto a path of a food-service career,” he said.

With a more recent effort and celebration for the return of food trucks to Worcester Common, Gallant and The Dogfather have joined Say Cheese and Press’n It from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Thursday next to the Common Oval.

This past Thursday, all three trucks were present, and enjoyed temperatures approaching 40 degrees throughout the three hours they served lunch.

Four weeks into being on the Common, Gallant says that it’s been up and down weather-wise, but they’ve been lucky so far.

Gallant, in his usual joking manner, pointing up to the office buildings looking down on the Worcester Common, said, “All of these people came into work today when it was in the high 20s. Now they’re looking out here at us like it’s still that cold out. It’s too bad there wasn’t some way to let them know it’s almost 40 degrees out. I’m even wearing a Hawaiian shirt.”

[Editor's note: There is a strict dog-per-day limit noted on page 463 of the Sun expense account user's manual.]

Patrick Sargent / For Worcester Sun

[Editor’s note: There is a strict dog-per-day limit noted on page 463 of the Sun expense account user’s manual.]

“But then again, who kicks off food-truck service at the beginning of January?” he asked.

“The first day we started selling on the Common, there was a lot of hype for it and we did great,” Murray said. “Once the summer comes, we expect a larger crowd each time we are out there.”

Murray said on his Facebook page the three truck vendors donated some of their January proceeds to Abby’s House.

Giangregorio said the presence of Gallant’s commissary in the Canal District would have a positive impact on the neighborhood. He believes food trucks downtown have already improved the Worcester Common area.

“The downtown is a great example where fixed food service cannot be supported by the downtown community, but provides a positive people presence getting people out onto the streets.

“Trucks can also provide a dense variety of offerings on abbreviated schedules not practical by fixed venues,” Giangregorio said.

He also supports the the efforts being made to attract more food trucks to the city.

Gallant sees the support from Canal District leaders, including Giangregorio. The improvements made to the neighborhood haven’t been lost on him, either.

“You can tell that they’re behind the whole food truck thing. Every time I’m at the Common, they’re supporting it,” Gallant said.

On his crowdfund campaign page, Gallant wrote, “The warehouse is in the canal district of Worcester, and I’m proud to be a part of the revitalization of this historic district for the past two years. Now it’s time to take the next step.”

As of Saturday afternoon, Jan. 30, the project had raised $415 in five days with a month remaining. It has been shared more than 400 times on Facebook.

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