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Food trucks find niche in McHenry County

Published: Saturday, June 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, June 29, 2013 11:50 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot – kgrillot@shawmedia.com)
Customers sit down with their food from Scoops Dairy and Dogs (right) during the Bull Valley Renaissance Faire.
(Kyle Grillot – kgrillot@shawmedia.com)
Emily Staab (right) gives customer Elizabeth Dobler of Wildwood her order from Scoops Dairy and Dogs.
(Mike Krebs – mkrebs@shawmedia.com)
Roxanne Johnson (left) and Rikki Anderson stand inside Scoops Dairy and Dogs.
(Kyle Grillot – kgrillot@shawmedia.com)
Matthias Bergmann (left) and his step-daughter Cadence Thalman, 9, receive their order from Scoops food truck during the Bull Valley Renaissance Faire.

WOODSTOCK – Any parent of an athlete will tell you finding time for dinner during a busy sports week is nearly impossible.

After traveling from practice, to game, to practice, to weekend tournaments, forget about putting a home-cooked meal on the table.

That’s where Scoops Dairy and Dogs food truck comes in.

Scoops is Woodstock’s only food truck that cooks meals on site – and it’s one of the only such establishments in the entire county.

In May Scoops began serving fresh Chicago-style hot dogs, chili dogs, Italian beef and Italian sausage out of a trailer it purchased in April. The trailer allows General Manager Roxanne Johnson the ability to hook up to her truck and find her customers, rather than the other way around.

“Business has been pretty good,” said Johnson, who also has operated the brick-and-mortar version of Scoops for the past three years. “Once people found out we were here, they’ve started requesting us.”

The food truck has allowed Scoops to expand its customer base, and it plans to serve at the upcoming county fair and other summer festivals.

But the inspiration for Scoops has always been to help busy families going to and from baseball games, Johnson said.

“We wanted to support the local sports teams,” she said. “We donate a portion back to Woodstock Little League … Parents have been very good to us.”

Recently, the popularity of food trucks has soared in cities like Chicago. The business lunch crowd in the Loop has flocked to the brick-and-mortar alternative, but food truck success hasn’t quite made it to the northwest suburbs.

“I think some of it has to do with location,” said Pam Cumpata, president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. “In Chicago you have a volume. You’re walking out for lunch and you want to grab something to eat. We don’t have the dense population here.”

With less foot traffic, location is key for McHenry County food trucks, according to Mary Jo Gould, owner of MJ’s Coffee Bar in McHenry.

“I’m not going after the business person,” Gould said. “I’m going to wherever there’s going to be a large amount of people.”

MJ’s Coffee Bar, which operates in a trailer similar to Scoops, opened in 2004 and sells primarily at area festivals. Along with coffee and sweets, MJ’s specializes in “wild dogs,” which are hot dogs made from buffalo, elk, and wild boar.

“We wanted something that would set us apart from the other vendors,” she said. “People were intrigued, but at first they didn’t know what do with them. I told people to take three, divvy them out to their friends, and let me know what they thought. People had a blast with them, and they took off.”

Gould said from July to October MJ’s Coffee Bar is booked solid, serving at festivals and fall football games, and her trailer stands out from the other culinary competition.

“The advantage is that I’m protected from the weather,” Gould said. “And my take town and set up is easier. It’s a lot more work for [cart or tent owners]. I’m at an advantage because I can pull in, plug in and I’m ready to go.”

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