City of Cedarburg - On a chilly Friday afternoon, various groups of co-workers made their way to the YellowBellies food truck parked on Washington Avenue.
Siobhan Mesenbourg, co-owner of the truck, greeted everyone with a smile and a few cheerful words. Almost all of the customers were greeted by name, as they tend to visit the truck for lunch every Friday.
They don't have to wait long in the cold because Siobhan's husband, Michael, quickly churned out YellowBellies' signature pulled rotisserie chicken sandwiches and sweet potato fries. The sandwiches have playful names like "The Mother Clucker," "The Mess" and "The Spunky."
For the regular customers, lunch at YellowBellies is not just another meal. It's an experience that they're visibly excited to have.
However, their normally cheerful conversations with Siobhan carried a few words of concern this week, as the future of the food truck in Cedarburg remains unclear.
On Monday, Nov. 28, the Cedarburg Common Council considered a recommendation by the economic development board to regulate food trucks in the area.
The conversation began in May when the development board sought an outright ban of the trucks in the city, a proposal the council rejected.
At the request of the council, the board then drafted a list of potential ordinances, which include limiting trucks to weekdays during lunch hours and keeping them out of the historic district.
Siobhan Mesenbourg finds the recent outcry against food trucks perplexing, as she and her husband have been operating in Cedarburg for the last four years without any problems.
"We're here only nine hours a month. I didn't think that was long enough to bother anyone," joked Mesenbourg, who operates the YellowBellies truck weekly at the U.S. Bank Center and other locations in Milwaukee and the surrounding suburbs.
They also make the truck available for private events, festivals and weddings. Since starting four years ago, YellowBellies has won several awards for "Best Food Truck" from various local and national publications.
Despite the awards, the highest praises always come from the customers. Local interior designer Casey Didier frequents the truck almost weekly and was especially bothered by complaints from local restaurant owners that claim that food trucks endanger their businesses.
"If you're concerned that your business can't survive with a food truck showing up once a week, then maybe there's something wrong with your business," said Didier.
Kathy Blume, a librarian at MATC in Mequon, says that eating at Yellowbellies is often her reason for visiting Cedarburg. This week, she used the trip as an opportunity to shop at a few stores in downtown.
"This truck is great for this town. Those stores may not have gotten my business if I hadn't come here for Yellowbellies," said Blume.
Mesenbourg appreciates her customers' sentiments and wants YellowBellies to help other businesses in the area to thrive. She is willing to pay the city taxes that the truck avoids because she and her husband live in Port Washington. She is even on board with most of the ordinances proposed, with one notable exception.
"If I can't operate in the historic district, then I'm not sure that it would be worth it," said Mesenbourg.
The local workers who frequent the truck on Washington Avenue wouldn't mind as much. They all volunteered to allow the truck to park in all of their businesses' parking lots.
What perplexes the Mesenbourgs and their supporters is that YellowBellies is one of only two food trucks that operate in Cedarburg. The second truck, the Blue Cow Creperie, has already ceased operations for the winter. Peter Schalk, owner and operator of Blue Cow, was especially surprised that there was any pushback against his truck, given the positive response from his customers.
"I think that the people who oppose the trucks are on the wrong side of progress and are opposing us for all the wrong reasons," said Schalk. "We're not trying to steal business from anyone. We're just adding a little variety to the food options in the area."
Schalk and the Mesenbourgs remain optimistic that a healthy compromise can be reached with the city. While losing business in Cedarburg would not be financially detrimental, Mesenbourg feels strongly about staying in the area on a personal level.
"I grew up in Cedarburg, and I love this community," she said. "To be able to serve these wonderful people food makes me happy and makes them happy."