Keeping on Night Trucking: Food truck at Hampshire College needs help to get back on the road

  • Owner Oliver Martinez puts the finishing outer touches on his food truck, The Night Truck. Ed Martinez

For the Gazette
Published: 4/19/2017 11:14:12 PM

AMHERST — The Night Truck at Hampshire College hasn’t served nighttime snacks to hungry students since last spring. To reopen, owner Oliver Martinez needs the college community to feed him — in the form of donations.

Last summer, Martinez began renovating The Night Truck’s kitchen, installing new cabinets and appliances. To his dismay, he discovered water damage in the structure of the truck during renovations.

The whole truck needed to be gutted. It was stripped down to what Martinez called a “cardboard-thick layer of metal that was the body of the truck,” and reconstruction began.

“It was really the best decision just to start from scratch,” Martinez said.

To assist with the project, Hampshire College provided a $8,000 fund to The Night Truck last year, half of which went to mechanical repairs. The other half went toward physical renovations to the kitchen, such as insulation, electrical and plumbing work. The truck is owned by Martinez, not the college.

To raise the rest of the money needed to reopen, Martinez created an online fundraiser. The fundraising campaign (gofundme.com/revive-the-night-truck) is nearing its fourth week, with 20 donors who have given $695 so far.

The goal is $2,500, though Martinez estimates that he might be able to open with a bare minimum of about $1,000 more in contributions.

All of the funds raised from here on will be used to pay for inspections and permits, he said. If there is money left over, it will go toward ingredients and products to serve food in.

Martinez hopes to have the food truck back on the road before the end of spring semester, although he says the need to raise money and obtain permits could make that tough. If the truck is not running for Hampshire College students before summer vacation, Martinez hopes to open as soon as he can, selling food in town or catering events.

“We definitely need more funding,” Martinez said. “It’s hard for students themselves to donate.”

In addition to securing permits, Martinez still needs to finish installing shelving and wiring lights in the kitchen, as well as put in the freezer. These small finishing touches do not require any more funding.

During the last semester it was open, The Night Truck would typically begin serving students around 8 or 9 p.m., when the dining hall closed. It would stay open as late as possible, usually until around 2 a.m.

The truck would normally serve around 65 or 70 students each night, according to Martinez. With the new renovations, Martinez hopes to double or triple the number of customers.

Martinez has been hard at work to ensure The Night Truck’s success since he took ownership in October 2015. He is an architecture student at Hampshire College, graduating in May. He hires other students to serve food to students, faculty and staff.

“The whole integration within the community is the most important part of the truck,” Martinez said. “It’s just so key to have the food and the service provided by fellow students.”

“Somebody that you’re in class with, you actually see later just doing their job,” he continued.

The Night Truck is known for the Greaser Sandwich, which includes mozzarella sticks, guacamole, bacon and cheese, all inside a toasted panini.

The staff has also been experimenting with healthier and fresher options, such as a pulled pork taco with fresh pico de gallo as well as vegan dumplings. For those on a vegetable kick, there are also deep-fried brussel sprouts on the menu.

If it opens this semester, The Night Truck will be located on the north side of Franklin Patterson Hall, across from the R.W. Kern Center.

Nicole DeFeudis can be reached at nmdefeudis@umass.edu.




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