Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tampa, Kicks, & Food Trucks

I was in Tampa, FL buying my niece a pair of sneakers.  I’m what they call a sneakerhead, so it brought great joy to my heart when I could provide my niece with some fresh kicks.  A stark contrast to the sense of frustration I felt after purchasing them.  Not because the girl that helped us ring up was rude or I had a bad experience in any way at the local shop, it was because I was in Florida, where I thought I could escape from the MidWest for a moment, specifically the universal stereotyping of a great city I love.  Again, I feel it necessary to reiterate that I was in Tampa, FL.  That is more than 1,000 miles away from here.  I handed the girl my ID as she requested, which was impressive, no one ever checks my ID anymore, which I find dangerous in today’s culture where plastic is king, not cash.  She comments on how nice it must be to be away from all those corn fields in Indiana to which I respond, “Well, I actually live in a cool arts district area just north of Indianapolis called Carmel.”  I could have told her I lived on Purple Space Monkey Mountain in the middle of Timbuktu and for all I knew she wouldn’t have known a difference.  I mean, we’re in Tampa, Fl, why would she know anything about Indiana?  “Oh, you live in Carmel?  Isn’t that where all the rich snobby people live?”   This is what this young lady in Florida hit me with when I mentioned Carmel, Carmel Indiana for god sake.  In moments like this I realize I have a pride for where I live and contempt for stereotypes. 

These feelings were recently stirred again by reading a post from Innovative Carmel.  They posed a couple questions regarding food trucks being allowed in our city.  1. Do food trucks play a role in Carmel’s future?  Why or why not?  2. Do you support regulations on food trucks wishing to do business in Carmel?  If so, explain what type of regulations you would support.

So what do sneakers, Tampa, and food trucks have to do with each other?  Well, you could throw out a bunch of things I suppose, but specifically I’m focusing on one thing and one thing only; a girl in Tampa Florida has a perception of Carmel, IN.  This inerrant stereotype of Carmel has crept its way into a bordering city, that’s understandable, but all the way to Florida is a bit shocking.  Now, I have learned that there is a new Carmel and an old Carmel mentality.  Old Carmel folks harshly disagree with new Carmel folks, and that’s fine, but sometimes it can turn uncivil, it’s my hope that such wouldn’t happen here, as it has on other Carmel forums in the past.  This is an obvious new Carmel mind giving his opinion on a trendy topic, feel free to disagree, but let’s have a discussion and not just cross our arms and choose sides here.  Carmel has an image problem, all can agree.  Folks who don’t live in Carmel all see it as multi-million dollar mansions sitting on beautiful lots in a sprawling  suburb of Indianapolis.  There is no culture in such a place, only rich folks who dislike the poor of Indy.  Seriously, this makes me want to beat my head against a wall, but I know that won’t solve anything, but giving the Carmel Fire Department more work to do.  The only way to fight stereotypes is with education and exposure.

I’ve lived downtown Indianapolis and while I was dating my now wife she lived in BroadRipple.  I’ve experienced what both have to offer and when the idea of moving North came into conversation I will admit I was the first to put the brakes on and spew out stereotypical logic for not moving to old snooty Carmel.  It was boring, I wasn’t ready for the suburbs, it had no culture, we weren’t rich, and on and on went my ignorance.  It wasn’t until we visited the Arts and Design District did I realize that it wasn’t anything like what the stereotypes had told me.  So we decided to try it out, living above the shops on Main St, curious to see what this little district would have to offer.  After a year in an apartment we were sold and bought a house within steps of the Monon and Arts & Design District.  I loved the reality of low property taxes, good school systems, and a progressive Mayor who wanted to put Carmel on the map.  We saw Bill Cosby at the Palladium and he says, “…you know they’ll be saying Indianapolis is that city close to Carmel soon.”  Agreed sir, agreed!  Look folks, I had to be exposed to Carmel to buy into the District and what Carmel offers. 

Food trucks are a national trend.  Food Network has a show based solely on this idea of mobile food.  It truly is a nationwide trend right now and Carmel is missing out.  Should this be part of our future?  Absolutely.  But I don’t want a food truck that doesn’t pay taxes in Carmel making money here and pulling business away from our local businesses.  This is the retort of some in Carmel and I can see that perspective, but only through a hazy and short-sighted view.  Should a food truck plop down in front a business that would be a competitor?  No way, I get that, and that is where the regulations would come in.  Don’t allow a food truck to part within so many feet, yards, meters, or whatever kind of measurement you can contrive in order to end the conversation of local businesses that do pay taxes getting business taken away from them by non-tax-paying businesses.  Other than that let the food trucks roll in as they will bring with them a large audience.  I know people who have Twitter accounts only to follow food trucks.  People follow them.  I leave Carmel all the time to track down my favorite food trucks.  The same would be true of folks surrounding Carmel, they’d leave their respective places to come here, if that’s where the food trucks were.  The food trucks would bring a whole new audience into Carmel who would then see and be perplexed by all of what Carmel, specifically the Arts & Design District and the City Center/Palladium have to offer.  If we can peak some interest and get some to return and explore we win.  Think of the exposure, for free, Carmel would get.  Once others were exposed to and experience what I already know and love I have no doubts Carmel could see some new business and growth. 

Come on Carmel, let down your guards and let in the food trucks.  Not only will we experience unique culture and foods, those who follow the food trucks here will get the unique experience of what we have to offer in Carmel, and trust me, it is more than a stereotype limits us to.  

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