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Friday, September 29, 2023

Gainesville food truck struggles to find place on UF campus

An inch too close.

Now, too far.

On the driver’s third attempt, the giant white truck turns carefully into Emerson Alumni Hall’s rear entrance for the perfect parking job in order to avoid fines and charges from UF and the City of Gainesville.

The Chow Now Food Truck, owned and run by Jules Gollner and her company, The White Apron Catering, offers a menu with specials like Cuban roast sandwiches, meatball subs and crab cakes every Tuesday.

The truck serves up to 30 people every week outside Emerson, the closest legal spot to UF.    

According to UF regulation documents, the truck cannot park and sell food on UF property.

Other regulations keep Gollner from bringing along the business’s mascot.

Rusty, her 15-pound terrier-chihuahua mix, is not allowed in the truck, she said.

Dogs and parking issues aside, she said the catering industry has, like other businesses, been affected by the economic downturn, resulting in a tight budget and a careful dispersal of the company’s 18-cent business cards.

The truck could sell food at places like fraternity houses, but most organizations request a minimum of $1,000 just for a parking spot, she said.

Without sufficient funds, such prices slim the list of potential clients and leave Gollner to slowly spreading the truck’s reputation.

“It’s only hard because we’re not known yet,” she said.

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Locals like Karen Smith, a program assistant in planned giving for the UF Foundation, are drawn by the idea of serving fresh food from a vehicle.

“I’d never grasped the concept of eating off a truck until about a month ago,” she said. “It was only when I found out that it was through White Apron that I elected to try it.”

And in case anyone tries to steal from the vehicle, Gollner has a defense mechanism.

“I have this sword,” she said as she pulled out a plastic toy with a gray blade and gold-colored handle.

She said she hasn’t used it yet.

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