Growing pains for Asheville Food Park

CHANGES ON THE RIVER: Asheville Food Park owner Dean Pistor is pictured behind the counter at Edna's at the River.
CHANGES ON THE RIVER: Asheville Food Park owner Dean Pistor is pictured behind the counter at Edna's at the River. Photo by Cindy Kunst

When the Asheville Food Park opened two years ago, the plan was for it to be a food truck destination complemented by a permanent coffee shop for daytime guests and a bar for evening patrons. The park’s owner, Dean Pistor, who also owns Marketplace Developments, LLC, says that at the time, he thought having food trucks “was a good theme in this neighborhood without food options and identified as a food desert.”

Today, only Cascade Lounge remains, and it’s currently closed for renovations. Pistor says no major changes are happening at Cascade — just some equipment being replaced — and customers can expect it to reopen very soon.

Edna’s at the River recently opted to close its location at the park in favor of focusing more energy on its original Merrimon Avenue space. “We agreed to let each other walk away from commitments and thanked each other for the opportunities we had growing and learning,” Pistor says.

Edna’s owner Mike Zukoski adds, “Other tenants had left the food park which impacted foot traffic and our sales, so it no longer made business sense to stay.” Zukoski does hope to open other Edna locations in the future.

Situated on Amboy Road across from Carrier Park and the French Broad River, the site comes with plenty of challenges, including its flood zone location and a creek running through the property. The original vision of a food truck park is now being abandoned, Pistor says, in favor of a permanent restaurant because “the days without food truck options grew disappointing to lounge patrons and site visitors. It was obvious by the feedback that we needed more consistent, locally grown, quality food to support the location and Cascade Lounge.”

According to Pistor, the park’s manager had trouble booking a steady schedule of food trucks because many opted to operate illegally at free locations versus paying the $35 fee at Asheville Food Park that covered the cost of electricity, water, trash/recycling, commissary kitchen and private bathroom.

“Some of the faithful food trucks such as Deli Llammma established a steady clientele and never had an issue with the token cost affiliated with setting up at Asheville Food Park,” says Pistor, “while many chased the bigger daily dollars and bounced around without a consistent schedule or location.”

Pistor is looking for a coffee or mobile café food operator that would be interested in serving at the park morning through lunch to act as a replacement for Edna’s at the River. A new restaurant has been lined up for the space, but he is not ready to reveal details yet. “The great news for our community is the location will offer what everyone says they want: consistency and quality, parking, walkability and easy access, a neighborhood gathering spot with that local vibe we all love,” he says.

He expects the permitting process and reopening will take a couple of months. The space is also getting spruced up with a new kitchen hood system and upgraded restaurant equipment on both floors. “We are adding many more features in the yard including the huge swing, upgrades to the chicken coop and a monster tire is rolling in this week,” Pistor adds.

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