Buttercloud food truck is a code-buster in Medford
Buttercloud has been such a wildly popular restaurant in Medford that customers sometimes have a hard time finding a place to sit.
Owners Ellen and Gibson Holub wanted to relieve the pressure on their brick-and-mortar restaurant at 310 Genessee St., so they decided to buy a food truck and place it on a parking lot next to the U.S. Post Office on Central Avenue.
After spending more than $50,000 to gear up their satellite location, the couple discovered a problem with their plans: The food truck is larger than Medford regulations allow.
"We came to a stumbling block with the size of our vehicle," Ellen Holub said.
City code allows a food truck with a maximum size of 170 square feet, while the Buttercloud vehicle is 200 square feet.
The couple appealed to City Council recently to see if they could get some relief from the code restrictions, noting the restaurant that's situated a block east of Hawthorne Park has been a draw for the downtown area.
"We drive a lot of people off Interstate 5 to our location," Ellen Holub said.
The restaurant is known for its homemade biscuit sandwiches, desserts and French-press coffee. The food truck would offer the same menu.
On the popular restaurant-grading website Yelp, Buttercloud gets 4.4 stars out of 5, with many of the reviewers from out of town.
"I heard great things about Buttercloud, so we had to pay them a lil' visit before heading back home," said Wes M. of San Francisco. "Let me tell you, Buttercloud did not disappoint! They have amazing biscuits and gravy that will give your taste buds the ride of their lives."
Jim Huber, Medford's planning director, said the size limit for food trucks was debated years ago by City Council.
Outside the downtown area, food trucks can be 170 square feet, but in the core downtown they can only be 128 square feet, a compromise reached after downtown restaurants voiced opposition to competing with larger food trucks, Huber said. The Post Office location falls outside the downtown area, as does the area around Buttercloud.
After Buttercloud's owners appealed to the council, Huber said he's received no direction to change the municipal code.
Ellen Holub said she plans to contact city councilors to see whether there is any other avenue available to allow her food truck to operate in Medford.
"It would be great if they could change the municipal code," she said. "It would open up Medford to more creative opportunities."
In the meantime, Holub said, the rig is parked on Highway 99, just north of Rogue Creamery in Central Point, although it doesn't receive the amount of traffic she hoped for in Medford.
The original location was selected in part to place the food truck close to Buttercloud to handle take-out orders and to relieve congestion at the current location.
"One advantage to the Post Office lot is all the parking," she said.
Holub said she could potentially sell the food truck and buy a smaller one, but she already has a sizable investment in the vehicle.
Holub said she doesn't find the food truck scene in downtown Medford a threat to her restaurant.
"We want to create this culture here where we have more interesting, less-corporate food options," she said.