It’s no mirage: A variety of foods is now being served two days a week in the food desert of Murchison Road.
On Fridays and Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Murchison Road Food Truck Park is open to serve the public.
The park is adjacent to the former Walmart Neighborhood Market space in the Murchison Marketplace at 3421 Murchison Road, Suite A. The area used to be the site of a Chinese restaurant, just behind Hardee’s restaurant.
The shopping center, formerly known as Pamalee Plaza, is near Pamalee Drive. The area is close to Fort Bragg.
Food truck park owner Tonya McNeill, a 53-year-old entrepreneur from Fayetteville, said Wednesday that the food truck park has been in operation for about a month.
“I actually have a restaurant there that I lease,” McNeill said of the recently opened Salad Box.
Food trucks and vendors are invited to come park and serve the community. They are charged $35 over the two-day stretch to operate from the park, according to publicist Elizabeth Stiff.
She grew up on Murchison Road when a Winn-Dixie anchored the shopping center. She still has family who lives in that part of the city.
About a month ago, McNeill opened the Salad Box in a former Subway location at the Murchison Marketplace. The ribbon-cutting for the restaurant was held Thursday.
Murchison Road has regained its reputation as a food desert — an area that has limited access to affordable, nutritious food — since Walmart closed in 2018. McNeill took that into account when she decided on Murchison Road as the location for her venture.
“One of the things is that the Salad Box is there,” said McNeill. “The way the Salad Box came about was my idea. My idea was to do a food truck commissary. I can do salad. I just finished that and knowing there is a need because with Murchison Road there is a need. There’s nothing healthy.
“So I wanted to bring something – not only healthy foods – but serve Murchison Road,” she said. “Help revitalize that part of Murchison Road and bring it back to life. I came up with the idea to do food trucks.”
Another food truck venture is planned for the Haymount area.
Jordan Sherrod, an active-duty Army soldier, plans to open the Haymount Truck Stop in the fall. He and business partner Chris Beaty purchased the former Hamont Auto Repair on Broadfoot Avenue for their planned combination food truck court, arcade and bar.
McNeill said up to a half-dozen food trucks have served food at one time at the Murchison Road site.
They have included Noth’n Fancy, a barbecue and soul food entry; Philly Me Up, a Jamaican Philly Cheesesteak truck; and an Indian truck that she said offers spicy fare.
“We’ve been there about four weeks,” said Bruce “Boo” Yeomans, the 56-year-old co-owner of the Noth’n Fancy truck with his wife. “Absolutely, it’s been successful. A lot of people get the notion that there’s no money on this corridor … I think folks just like consistency. If you say you’re going to be there, be there.”
He offers pulled pork, pulled smoked chicken, a fried whiting fish, fried gizzards and, he noted, “this last item we took from Robeson County – a collard sandwich.” Occasionally, he offers ribs and brisket.
His business motto is, “From our stove, to your soul.”
Tisdale Southern BBQ, which would feature a variety of barbecue, is expected to join the park as soon as the owner gets the nod from the Health Department.
At that point, Donald Tisdale said, “We’re in business.”
Besides the food trucks, McNeill said, vendors have set up at the park and offered such items as Italian ice, smoothies and lemonade.
“Others are asking if they can come out and park, as well,” she said. “I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls.”
McNeill estimated as many as seven food trucks at a time could share space at the park.
“We have at least 20 picnic tables where you can enjoy a meal and the weather outside,” she said. “We prepared that for them to enjoy the food trucks.”
Business started at a slow pace, she said. “We were just getting the word out there. The last couple of weekends have been very successful. I’m starting to get a buzz now. People are asking if they can get on now. I’m getting a lot of hits, a lot of phone calls from people wanting to participate.”
Meanwhile, McNeill said she is looking at opening other locations in Fayetteville, closer to Raeford Road and the Cliffdale Road area.
“People love food trucks,” she said. “It gives them something different.”
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at email@example.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.