Norman’s First Food Truck Park Greeted with Open Arms
by Tegan Burkhard
Here’s what residents, food truck owners and developers have to say about TOLY Park, Norman’s first food truck hangout at 227 W Main Street.
“On our opening night, we ran out of tables, and people were sitting on the ground out here,” said Gabriel Bird, who established TOLY Park next to his dental office development.
“People were so gracious, like, ‘We love it! We love it! Maybe if there was more seating?’” Bird said. “I’m like, ‘Yes, yes! Absolutely! We’re gonna get a lot more.’”
Since TOLY Park officially opened on April 13, eager foodies and outdoor-loving families have filled every wooden picnic table while trying new dishes and socializing.
“When you go to a restaurant, or other events, you kind of just sit with the people you came with at a table,” said Carrick Carter. “But here, you might share a picnic table with someone or play a game with someone and get to know other people.”
“It’s a way to enjoy the outdoors and to still be near the Main Street scene,” said Carolynn Loon. “So, we were excited to see that, and the food trucks rotate, so it’s always a different thing every time.”
“I think it’s good that it’s on Main Street and not on campus because there’s already so much to do on campus and so many places to eat,” Alissa Carlile said. “I’m glad that it’s in a different part of the town.”
At TOLY Park, people of all ages can soak up the outdoors while munching on snacks, such as homemade caramel apples or slices of chocolate silk pie. There’s plenty of laughter, not to mention the bubble blowing, the flying beach balls and the airborne bean bags.
“I think it’s very family-friendly. I’m pretty excited because this is the only time I really get to spend time with my kids, and I’m not concerned about drunk people being weird,” said Skyler Collins. “And there’s activities for the kids. It’s pretty nice.”
With a place to land so close to home, fresh business opportunities abound for local food truck owners parked at TOLY Park during special events, weekly offerings and the 2nd Friday Norman Art Walk, which happens every month.
“We were going to go mobile before we heard that Gabe was opening up this park, but it’s made it a lot easier for us, because we’re able to get our feet wet and still be in our own backyard,” said Scotty Jackson, co-owner of the Apple Tree Chocolate.
TOLY Park also solved an eyesore problem when Bird and General Manager Sammie Richardson converted the long-abandoned Long-Bell Lumber Co. site into a new gathering space.
“It’s in a great spot, too, getting to use the old lumberyard,” says Ashley Jackson, Apple Tree Chocolate co-owner. “I’m glad it’s being used for something that benefits the community.”
This addition to Norman’s Main Street also extends the downtown district’s overall walkability.
“Here in downtown, we have six walkable blocks already,” Bird said. “But…walkable can’t necessarily be built new anymore. It has to exist in downtowns that were built before cars were driving up and down ‘em.”
Now that TOLY Park is open, offering plenty of mouthwatering cuisine enhances the downtown environment. It’s a place to fuel up before continuing into to downtown Norman’s antique shops, craft beer taprooms, art galleries and music venues.
“I love Norman so much, and I love downtown,” Bird says. “I grew up here, and seeing what’s been going on downtown, this resurgence, this renaissance that it’s having, I just want to be part of it.” – BSM