Food Trucks Find Opportunity, Connections at CLT

They once were part-time side gigs, but with the help of CLT’s Food Truck Program, 22 Street Kitchen and Taystee Ice are now thriving endeavors.

Through the Food Truck Program at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, these small businesses have been able to regularly build their customer bases and their businesses thanks to opportunities at the Airport’s Overlook and at employee events hosted by the Aviation Department, which runs the Airport for the City of Charlotte.

Taystee Ice and 22 Street Kitchen are among the 13 trucks in CLT’s Food Truck program, and Marcus Choi, who manages the program as the Business Diversity and Development Programs specialist, hopes to add more. Connections Don’t Just Happen at the Terminal, the Food Truck Program gives food truck owners access to Airport locations and creates the opportunity to reach a bigger audience and grow their business.

“Economically, it’s been great having a consistent location during the hours that we work, during lunch hours, and it’s just been keeping us in business,” said Felicia Reese, who owns 22 Street Kitchen. Her food truck serves California-style and Creole-inspired dishes. She started the business not long after the pandemic began.

“I’m one of those COVID babies, I went on furlough through my job and decided to do the food truck as a weekend side hustle, and it just became a full-time career,” Reese said. Since joining CLT’s Food Truck Program, her business has seen a lot of foot traffic at the Airport Overlook and at the Aviation Department’s Fleet Maintenance, that has led to wider recognition and business opportunities, she said.

“When people like your food, you gain a new following,” Reese said. “As far as the Airport, it’s nice to see how it is growing. We may have some customers one week and the next week we may have different customers. So, depending on the day and the area, we can see many different people.”

The program created a new opportunity for 22 Street Kitchen. The food truck recently partnered with American Airlines to provide food services at its training facility. “We look forward to having more locations around the Airport,” Reese said.

Like Reese, being part of the Food Truck Program has led to more opportunities for Tay Young, who owns Taystee Ice, an Italian ice and frozen treat vendor. He began working in CLT’s Food Truck Program a couple of years after starting Taystee Ice in 2016. He had the idea to start the business about a decade earlier but put it off as he focused on working first at the London Stock Exchange and then later for a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

“I just felt like it was a calling. It was the time,” Young said. “I felt like I had put it off long enough, and I actually have loved it ever since.”

In 2021, he made Taystee Ice a full-time business. He is often at the Airport Overlook, but earlier this year began visiting Aviation Department employees at the weekly food truck events at the Fleet Maintenance facility. “It’s nice to not have to book events outside of the Airport where there is a lot more competition,” Young said.

Being a part of the Airport Food Truck Program has boosted Young’s business and established connections and relationships he hopes to last for a long time to come.

Young already has his next goal in mind. “We want to keep expanding throughout Charlotte.”