A cluster of hungry visitors gathered off a busy highway in Garden City Beach for some eats. Emblazoned with illustrations of skulls and a fiery color scheme, the food truck there stood out as cars zipped past.
Despite the lunch rush, times have been hard lately for the truck’s owner.
“It’s terrible,” said The Gnosh Pit food truck’s Meredith McCarthy of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected her business, which also offers catering and delivery.
The outbreak of the virus has caused event cancellations and postponements along with other outcomes during a crucial and typically busy time for locally-based food trucks. Their operators stand to lose out on thousands.
“That’s our big money, events and catering,” McCarthy said. “Sitting on the side of the road, you don’t really know. … We have to get creative and figure out what we’re going to do.”
Concerns over the virus have caused public facilities to close and schools and universities to shift to online instruction. Some jobs have directed employees to work remotely.
Earlier this week, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster ordered restaurants and bars in the state to halt dine-in service through the end of the month, though customers can now buy sealed containers of beer and wine from eateries through curbside or to-go orders.
Workers in the service and hospitality industries have been hit hard.
McCarthy’s food truck work is how she makes end meet. As someone with experience in the food and beverage field and a musician, she pointed to the fact diners aren’t allowed to eat indoors. The pandemic has also affected friends of hers who run food trucks in New York, where she’s originally from.
“It’s just like, what do you do, you know?” she said.
However, she isn’t beyond working at a place like a retail store if it comes down to it.
“You have to make money,” she said. “You have to pay bills. … It’s scary. Some of us have some money stockpiled away, but some people don’t.”
Shoppers have begun amassing goods as health officials encourage social distancing, avoiding public gatherings of more than 10 people and restricting travel, and McCarthy suspects many in the community have been cooped up.
“Everyone’s so scared to go out of their house,” she said.
And food truck operators have found ways to cope.
McCarthy has stepped up promotion, updating her business’s Facebook page more frequently.
In some cases food truck owners have helped each other in ways like spreading the word about their counterparts, and she recalled when another food truck allowed hers to take its time slot one day, which proved fruitful.
“We’re kind of in a time of crisis,” McCarthy said, “but everyone’s in the same boat.”
Saturday was a trial run for her truck to offer dishes such as deep fried Mediterranean burgers and jackfruit tacos off U.S. 17 Business near Garden City Beach’s Walmart.
In Myrtle Beach, Monique Onley Collins was doing what she could to give back in spite of her own food truck business being impacted by the pandemic, particularly due to event changes.
“This is the busiest time of the year,” she said.
The owner of Six in a Ness has been giving kids free hot dogs and fries, and some of her family members were at the truck Saturday to lend a hand.
Collins said her business is now limited in where it can set up and even in purchasing ingredients.
“This is getting worse if you ask me,” she said. “We don’t know how long it’s going to last.”
Still, she’s thankful for community members who have come out to support the business and the city for allowing her to park at Myrtle’s Market, where the food truck first began serving up meals like wings and sandwiches.
Not all local food trucks remain operational, and at least one food truck has decided not to operate for the time being.
A schedule of events Shannon Garrow was set to participate in as a vendor heading into the summer has since been cleared in light of the pandemic.
“It’s just kind of hard because you don’t know how you’re going to run your business after this,” said the EZCheezy food truck owner, “or even if you’re going to have a business after this.”
Garrow is a mother of three kids, all in elementary school. Before the current ordeal, her food truck that specializes in grilled cheeses would usually be open for business at least four times a week, and she’d work events like teacher appreciations.
But schools are closed, and Garrow said multiple establishments are outright nixing food truck appearances.
“A lot of them have canceled us just because of what’s going on,” she said.
While food truck owners understand the health concerns, they’re feeling the effects during this stretch of the year.
Garrow said St. Patrick’s Day is normally when her truck’s busy season kicks off, as festivals pop up throughout the region. Now, they’ve either been scrapped or delayed.
“That’s why were all hurting so bad,” she said. “[We] make a ton of money at these festivals. That’s our livelihood.”
The annual Myrtle Beach Food Truck Festival that was set to return to the former Pavilion site April 3-5 was one of multiple events changed, as organizers said it has been postponed to the fall.
“For the local trucks, that basically makes our money for the summer and helps us get into other festivals for the fall,” Garrow said.
Food truck operators aren’t all in despair though.
There are still sites like Anything Goes, a consignment business The Gnosh Pit truck was parked outside of Saturday, and Myrtle Beach’s New South Brewing. Both have permitted food trucks to sell meals on their grounds.
McCarthy’s food truck saw a solid crowd Saturday afternoon, and the mobile business could be in store for a busy fall season depending on how things play out.
And Friday was a decent one for Collins’ truck at Myrtle’s Market.
Like Garrow, its owner is hopeful for an eventual return to normalcy.
For now, Collins is putting it all in God’s hands.
“I don’t think He brought me this far to let me start a business and take it away,” she said.