You know about food trucks, but New York City is full of other types of unique mobile truck businesses. And no, we’re not talking about the NYPD trucks that process delinquents…
1. Del Re’s Knife Grinding Truck
“It’s like old New York,” says a happy customer waiting for her kitchen knives to be sharpened Saturday morning near Columbia University. 58-year old Dominic Del Re is from Italy and was a commodities trader in New York City. He decided to get into the mobile knife sharpening business after the stock market crash of 1987. The truck is from his wife’s uncle, a knife grinder in Montreal, who also taught him the trade, which was passed down from his wife’s grandfather. He started in Brooklyn and now goes all over. He doesn’t like photographs, but will jokingly charge you $1 per shot. And he has a strict no weapons policy.
2. The Who’s YourDaddy DNA Testing Truck
The Who’s Your Daddy DNA Testing truck
Health Street, a DNA testing company, uses two RVs to roam the streets of New York City, seven days a week emblazoned with the conspicuous slogan, “Who’s your Daddy?” Jared Rosenthal, the owner and operator, explains that the privacy provided is inviting to clients. With cosy and comfortable interiors, the “Who’s your Daddy?” truck is far removed from clinical labs. It is this environment, he argues, that allows people to open up and share stories more so than they usually would.
While there are mixed reactions from the general public to the initiative, Rosenthal speaks very seriously about his work. By responding to silent needs, he is delivering an essential yet discreet service. The DNA tests cost between $299 and $575. They require a simple cheek swab from the father and child in question followed by a lab analysis. Results are ready in days.
3. Mobile Phone and Device Storage Trucks
These mobile device storage trucks are part of a booming business that only exists in New York City–because cell phones and other devices–are banned from all public schools. The rule has been in place since the 1980s, but a few years ago the city started enforcing it past the “out of sight, out of trouble,” policy in place. The rule isn’t totally enforced still, but definitely in action in the approximately 90 schools that have metal detectors. The first company to hit the streets was Pure Loyalty Electronic Device Storage. It was started by Vernon Alcoser, a corrections officer from the Bronx. It costs $1 a day for one item, $1.50 for two. The total electronic storage device industry was reportedly taking $4.2 million dollars per year from the city’s youth as of 2012.
[Update: On March 2nd, 2015 as the city changed its no cell phone rule, students were able to bring in cell phones to school again]
4. Mobile Dental Center
The Columbia University Mobile Dental Center is a large bus/winnebago that services the community of Northern Manhattan and the Bronx. The vehicle is painted in the Columbia blue and when we took the photo, the driver gave us a huge toothy grin. The center has two fully equipped dental operatories and is staffed with a dentist, a pediatric resident, dental hygienist, and dental assistant.
5. Sunstruck Sunglass Truck
The Sunstruck sunglass truck was started by a husband and wife team from New York, looking for a non-corporate career. Inspired by the food truck craze, the sunglass truck roams around “the sunniest spots in and around New York City,” (and at night it seems). Besides sunglasses, you can get sunscreen too. The company also donates to a variety of charity partners, sometimes related to the location they’re parked in.
Some pop-up trucks that have stopped by New York City include the Maille dijon mustard truck and the Boston-based Fashion Truck, a clothing boutique truck. Read more about what it takes to become a food truck vendor and see vintage photographs of 19th century food vendors.
6. Uprooted Flower Truck
New York City couple Kristin Heckler and Ashley Custer launched Uprooted, the city’s first mobile flower truck, in April 2015. Since then, they’ve been hand-crafting bouquets daily on curbs and in flea markets all over the city. The bouquets are different every day and come in three simple sizes: The Studio, The Loft and The Penthouse, ranging from $12-$40. Customers can always customize the bouquets using fresh stems from the daily picks. If patrons don’t need a vase, they can walk away with their bouquet safely tucked in a custom-made bag with handles that holds water for the walk home.