For the first time in years, there’s a new food truck in Ketchikan. It’s the first to come on the scene since the passage of a local ordinance that dialed back restrictions on mobile eateries in the First City.
Bright orange and boxy, the new sausage-and-fries truck has a one-word name. But owner Tammy Bellanich says she spent months toying around with what to call it.
“Finally I just decided that people know me, and they know who I am and how I am,” she said. “So I’m going to name it Tammy’s because it represents me. And I’m fun. I want people to come together and have fun and laugh and talk, and (the name) seemed like the obvious answer to me.”
The truck truly is Tammy’s — it’s a one-woman business, along with lots of support from friends. It held a soft opening last Thursday, with a steady stream of customers through the lunch rush.
Serving up antibiotic-free brats, freshly-cut fries and chocolate-dipped banana treats, Tammy said she tries to take the natural route. She’s starting simple, but said she may change the menu depending on what customers like. For her, it is less about the food — and more about the people.
“It’s really cool that I’m in a place that’s bringing people forward that I never get to see,” she said. “This is exactly my purpose of doing this: is to get to see people and reunite.”
Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., you can usually see Tammy leaning out of her walk-up window, chatting with customers. That window doubles as a window out into her community.
Born and raised in Ketchikan, Tammy saw a lot of familiar faces on her opening day. One of them belonged to Amy Webb, who has known Tammy for at least 30 years.
“I’d describe her as fun,” Webb said. “Always good for a laugh, hard worker, and always ready to try new things. She has no fear. So I think she’s going to do really well.”
Tammy’s home base is out by Walmart on Don King Road, about four miles north of Ketchikan’s downtown core. She plans to stay there for now, she said.
“I would like to target the locals; the community,” she said. “Where I’m located here is not really for the tourists. I mean, I welcome any of the visitors that come down when they go to Walmart, but I’m not going to try and go downtown on the docks. This is kind of a cool place to be, because I feel like people come out here and get away from the tourists if they want to, away from the busy-ness.”
Longtime local and Borough Assembly Member Austin Otos was Tammy’s first customer. He supported Ordinance 1900-SA, which passed last March and essentially expanded when and where food trucks can be in Ketchikan, so he was excited to see Tammy’s open up.
“I would even travel in smaller cities in Southeast Alaska and see food trucks,” he said. “For example, When I was over in Craig, Alaska, they have a food truck food called Fish and Chicks. And I was like, if Craig can have it there. Ketchikan has to have it.”
Otos says he doesn’t take full credit for the ordinance — and doesn’t speak for the full assembly — but says he was personally glad to see it pass.
Though food trucks have never been technically illegal in Ketchikan, there were a lot more restrictions placed on where and when they could do business. That means that before the 2020 ordinance, only a handful of food trucks had popped up since their heyday in the 1980s.
Local historian Dave Kiffer points to Burger Queen as the last consistent food truck he can remember. But that restaurant hasn’t been on wheels for decades. Kiffer said that when people starting bringing food trucks downtown and competing with local businesses, he remembers restrictions being put up.
“The primary argument was the existing restaurants were the bricks and mortar places, they had certain fixed costs that the food trucks didn’t have,” he said. “And so there was unfair competition.”
The borough’s Planning and Community Development Director Richard Harney says that the ordinance outlines a process to guard against that.
“Under the new ordinance, now we have those standards that we can measure a food truck against to make sure that it fits in the neighborhood,” he said, “And that it’s not impacting brick and mortar structures negatively.”
So far, Tammy has been the first and only person to get a permit under the new ordinance. But she said she hopes she can encourage other people to do the same.
“Maybe more people will get food trucks and we can build a community,” she said. “And as a collective, we can move locations, try different things, offer more for the community of Ketchikan. So I hoping that this is like a door that’s opening.”
Until then, Tammy will be out at her food truck, greeting people and serving food.