The owners of Kissimmee's Visitors Flea Market across from Old Town have invested $250,000 in recent weeks to create an outdoor food court serviced by 40 food trucks, and they're already seeing the payoff.
"Traditionally, September through November is our slowest time," Director of Operations John Nehmatallah told GrowthSpotter. "September is dead for us. October, too."
Not this year. Since getting conditional approval from Osceola County to add 40 food truck stations to the five-acre parcel, the flea market will enjoy its best two months ever.
After a short trial period, the county permanently approved the food truck court. The plan allows for placement of five food trucks in front of the shopping center and another 35 in the back parking lot.
"We've upscaled and changed our infrastructure to do so by allowing us to have electricity outlets for those food trucks. We designated parking areas specifically for those food trucks and it will be fenced," Nehmatallah said.
An open corridor connects the two areas, with shaded seating between them. Owner Nadeem Battla is spending $50,000 for murals along the exterior of the building and throughout the central corridor.
"And we're going viral on Facebook," Nehmatallah said. "We've got DJs and entertainment coming in every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and we're getting calls left and right from people who want to be a part of it. And it complements tremendously our flea market."
Battla, a founding partner with Ocean Air gift shops, bought the 20-year-old flea market in 2015 for $5.1 million. The property is home to the 21,633-square-foot Machine Gun America attraction and the 51,000-square-foot flea market, which has 275 vendors.
The flea market provides a commissary and commercial kitchen for the food truck vendors, as well as full-time security. There is no alcohol allowed on the premises.
Nehmatallah said some trucks operate during the day, but most conduct their business at night. On weekends, they serve from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. Most serve Latin American cuisine.
"Last weekend, there were so many people here the vendors ran out of food at 1 a.m.," he said.
The flea market closes at 9 p.m., but Nehmatallah said they are considering offering extended hours until midnight in December and January to bring in special vendors for the holidays.
They have four other sites under contract, including two on International Drive and one on W192.