As Petaluma celebrates its agricultural heritage, a local entrepreneur is hosting the grand opening of a long-awaited food truck park that’s expected to further shape the city’s reputation as a culinary destination.
The Block, an open air food truck market and beer garden fronted by Petaluma native Cody Hildreth, is set for an April 29 opening that coincides with the Butter and Egg Days parade. Years in the making, the business will feature a rotating slate of up to four food trucks and a permanent kitchen that will be home to San Francisco-based Firetrail Pizza. A beer garden will feature 30 different taps, with an emphasis on “up and coming breweries.”
The business will occupy the 25,000-square-foot lot behind Auto Zone on East Washington Street that’s flanked by the iconic Dairymen’s Feed & Supply Co-op building. There will be an on-site parking lot with 32 spaces, covered outdoor seating and fire pits. Many of the furnishings are handmade, with some of the wood drawn from fences at Hildreth’s father’s Petaluma ranch.
Hildreth is checking the final boxes for inspections and working out kinks, and he said a soft opening could come sooner than April 29.
The 29-year-old former EMT was inspired to change careers when his then 3-year-old son, Jackson Hildreth, was diagnosed with cancer. Now 6, Jackson is healthy and his father is seeing the plans he brought to the city in 2015 come to fruition.
“I really love the whole food industry and culture and that’s why I wanted to get into this side of things. I saw something that our area wasn’t embracing, which is the food truck movement. I wanted to find a way that we could bring in food trucks and yet do it in a way that North Bay and Petaluma especially would accept.”
Hildreth anticipates The Block’s unique offerings will attract customers from outside of the city, boosting the local economy. About 16 employees have also been hired, bringing an influx of jobs to downtown.
More than 25 food trucks have signed on, including Petaluma-based El Roy’s Mexican Grill, which will be a permanent fixture at The Block. The company, which has food trucks in Petaluma and Santa Rosa and a brick and mortar Petaluma restaurant, will hire 10 new employees to staff a new food truck purchased for the park, according to co-owner Roy Cabrera.
Cabrera, who started his business in 2004 with one food truck, said he’s noticed that the mobile eateries have slowly gained widespread popularity. He said The Block will further play a role in legitimizing the business model, which he said was historically viewed “very negatively” by restaurant owners.
“I think it’s a great idea and I’m very excited for Cody,” the Petaluma resident said. “It’s going to bring … a very diverse crowd.”
Marie McCusker, executive director of the Petaluma Downtown Association, said The Block will fit into the eclectic fabric of the city’s central business district. Her organization has been involved with the development process, and she said though some area restaurateurs expressed initial concerns, the community has embraced the Petaluma-centric project.
“We’re a very authentic and unique kind of funky yet sophisticated location and The Block fits very much into that … we have such great restaurants and we’re a real foodie destination and this brings another element to that,” she said.