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Fojol Brothers, one of the pioneers of D.C.’s new generation of mobile vendors, closed the last of its three food trucks last Friday.
Founder Justin Vitarello says the vehicles, which were built in the 1950s and ’60s, were so old that the cost of repairs and the difficulty of finding replacement parts made them no longer worth operating. “The amount of money to keep them all running, we’re just not seeing the return,” he says. The cold winter also hurt business, and Vitarello wants to spend more time with his son and his friends after more than five years on the road.
Vitarello had already taken two Fojol’s trucks off the road this winter, but when the transmission died on the last truck, “that was the nail in the coffin.” While some truck operators worried that the mobile vending regulations that went into effect near the end of last year would hurt them—and one even blamed the new rules for its closure—Vitarello says they weren’t a factor in his decision. “We were selling well,” he says.
Plans for Fojol Brothers’ Elastic Hallways—buses converted into dining cars and multipurpose spaces—are on hold, but Vitarello says he may rent them out or tour them around for events. Initially, the plan was for the buses to piggyback off the Fojol Brothers trucks, which included Merlindia (Indian food), Benethiopia (Ethiopian), and Volathai (Thai).
While the trucks are gone, Vitarello plans to keep the kitchen space in Hyattsville to work on a line of Fojol Brothers products, including lassipops, spiced rice flour chips, and jars of sauces and chutneys. He isn’t sure where he’ll sell those products yet.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery