East Dundee caboose tenant to temporarily operate out of food truck
With the caboose concession stand shut down for the season in downtown East Dundee, Duke's Blues-n-BBQ will occasionally operate out of a food truck during the winter months to maintain its customer base.
The business, which serves authentic Southern cuisine, was chosen last spring as the tenant for the repurposed, village-owned train car at 112 Railroad St. Owner Terrance "Duke" Seward and his wife, Rhiannon, had been making a name for themselves through their catering services, food truck and participation in festivals and barbecue competitions.
A two-year concessionaire's license permitted the caboose to be renovated so Duke's could operate year-round rather than seasonally. But winterizing the railroad car proved to be more difficult and expensive than anticipated, Village President Lael Miller said.
The village board on Monday voted 4-1 to allow Duke's to operate out of a food truck in an adjacent parking lot when the weather is favorable. The trailer, which has appropriate state and county permits, would only be used in East Dundee when the caboose is out of commission.
Customers from throughout the region have been drawn to downtown East Dundee to try Duke's barbecue, Seward said. He fears shutting down for a season will cause the business to lose momentum.
"I'm not going to turn my back on what we've started to build," he said. "I'm trying to bounce around different ideas to make it work and make sure that we're still relevant."
Trustee Jeff Lynam voted against the measure, saying he's "troubled" by the idea of having the trailer operating in the downtown area. The village code prohibits food trucks in East Dundee's business district.
"I really don't think it's going to fit well with what we're trying to accomplish," he said. "While I like the idea of the caboose, I can't say I like the idea of the truck. If we allow one truck, where's the position of the board going to be on a second?"
Trustee Scott Andresen abstained from voting but noted the truck largely would be hidden from view, thanks to a hill to the east of the parking lot and a fenced-in property to the west.
"If it allows a business to stay in function 12 months a year, and it helps one of our business owners stay viable, I don't see the drawback to this," he said.
Both Miller and Seward said they're interested in exploring a longer-term project to make the caboose usable year-round. Seward also hopes to beautify the site with fencing and other aesthetic improvements, he said.
"We actually love that location," he said. "Down the road, I would love for it to be winterized."