Log In

Reset Password

11th Street Station owners talk food truck trend, celebrating sixth anniversary

The food truck takeover is a continuing fad for Durango restaurateurs
Marcos Wisner, owner of 11th Street Station in downtown Durango, prepares a mixed drink on Thursday. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

Durango’s 11th Street Station has become a staple, driving foot traffic toward the north end of downtown Main Avenue since its inception in 2017.

Built from an old Conoco gas station purchased by Jaime Wisner in the 1980s, the food truck court and bar celebrates its sixth anniversary on Nov. 4. The celebration will feature events such as beer quaffing, a silent disco and a variety of drinks.

When the establishment first opened, city regulations in Durango had made it difficult for food trucks to thrive.

The trucks could not operate on a public street or park, and they had to find a private lot and request a six-month permit from the city to operate. After six months, the trucks were required to vacate the space.

In the face of these issues, the father-son team developed a solution to the problem: 11th Street Station.

Now, there are food trucks everywhere, in part because of the city changing its policy to allow long-term permits for food trucks in February. Also, the success of 11th Street Station has shown there’s a market for it in Durango.

The Durango Herald sat down with owners Marcos and Jaime Wisner to discuss the impact 11th Street has had on downtown, as well as the food truck trend in Durango. The food truck court concept has since been duplicated by businesses like Lola’s Place and The Union Social House.

Q: You're coming up on six years. What does it mean to you all to reach this point?

Marcos: That’s always kind of like the gold standard in this town, in my opinion.

If you can get past that six-year mark, I think you really earn the love of the community, and you’ve kind of (proved) your mettle.

You finally get to see the fruits of your labor.

Q: What do you contribute the success of 11th Street Station to?

Marcos: Well, the team first and foremost, and then the community and their support behind us.

Q: Breaking this down further, 11th Street really seems to have elevated the food truck dining trend in Durango. What about this trend makes it so popular?

Marcos: I think this industry is only getting more and more difficult to make a profit, and especially to take those big risks with something like a brick and mortar location.

It is just more and more daunting, and that entry-level threshold that businesses need to go brick and mortar is just so expensive in this town, considering rent, costs of construction and everything on that.

Whereas, with a modular system, like a food truck, you can pretty much start getting your food for the people, and it’s been housed at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the risk as well.

I think that’s just really appealing to this new generation of restaurateurs trying to bring something new to Durango.

Julie Vidojkovic with the pizza food truck called “The Box” makes a pizza on Thursday at 11th Street Station in downtown Durango. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

Q: How do those costs stack up against opening a new restaurant?

Marcos: I’ve opened a few restaurants, but I wasn’t totally in on the numbers (in) part because I was just the chef at the time. But I’ve talked with other restaurants and I have considered pursuing a brick and mortar, and the costs just don’t make sense.

It’s a tough entry barrier to make. You’re looking at investing $1 million instead of $100,000.

Q: What inspired the food truck element of 11th Street Station?

Marcos: Well, I had a food truck here initially that I tried to pursue. And we kind of saw the writing on the wall with it being a trend nationally.

We were able to kind of put the numbers to it and see that it did make sense not only for us as business owners, but, you know, for us to create an opportunity for other people wanting get their foot in the food industry.

Q: You had a few food vendors here who have moved on to their own brick and mortar locations. How does it feel to know that you kind of helped them get off the ground?

Marcos: It’s rewarding. I mean, we’re definitely proud of ourselves on giving them that platform, whether it ended good or nice.

This was an initial spot for them to start getting people familiar with their food without having to actually operate a full-blown restaurant with front of house service and regular hours.

They were able to come in and really just focus on the food and have like a plug-and-play product and kind of gain some momentum to eventually grow into that brick and mortar.

Jaime: Well, it all stems from when we went around and looked at a lot of places.

One of the things Marcos really liked was a seed program for chefs. So not only do they just come in and serve here, Marcos will consult with them in regards to what they’re doing with their foods and point them in a direction.

I help them a little bit with their (finances), and Carmen (Drulis) helps them with their marketing. These are people that have never ran a business before, and because we do the marketing and a lot of other stuff for them, they don’t have to worry about that.

Because Marcos was a chef, he understands the need to have chefs be able to learn but more than that, not having the capital (needed to open a restaurant). And he recognized that this was a stepping stone for that.

A pizza is checked to see if it’s been cooked well enough at the 11th Street Station pizza food truck called “The Box” on Thursday in downtown Durango. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

Q: What’s in store for the future of 11th Street Station?

Marcos: I think it’s great the amount of growth we’ve created on this block.

I think we’ve finished up our last little touch-ups of construction and really finalizing the property to have better flow.

If anything, it’d be (about adding) some better heated seating through the winter possibly. And probably just some bigger events throughout the summer. You know, car shows, block parties, themed events, fundraisers, all sorts of stuff.

Jaime: A big part of what we do is because of the community, and the seed program that Marcos put in was for the community.

Last year, we hosted about 15 nonprofits. We’ve donated food or booze for nonprofits to raise money.

It’s become kind of a central place for the community to be able to do fundraisers and stuff like that. It’s something that was missing in the town, and it’s not government driven. It’s totally driven from 11th Street.

Food trucks are nestled in the far right corner of 11th Street Station in downtown Durango. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

Q: Is there anything that you all would like to improve upon with this location?

Jaime: I mean, every day we turn around, we find a better way to do things or refining a big move that we did last year like increase the number of vendors, bringing in additional management, and the improvements on the property.

These all go along with the goals of the city, which is improving the full footprint of the property and moving foot traffic down to this end of town.

I think we’re the only ones that have been able to do that.


Reader Comments