Expect the trailer trend to hit Oak Cliff next year

Imagine an artsy new retail center along a discounted stretch of West Dallas.

There’s a tattoo shop, a design firm, a candle maker, an ice-cream stand.

Now imagine all those businesses in trailers, lined nose to end, fronting the busy street.

That’s the vision Cienda Partners has for the Dallas West Mobile Home RV Park, at West Commerce and Pittman, adjacent to Jack’s Backyard.

Cienda hired Belmont Hotel mastermind Monte Anderson of Options Real Estate to market the property.

“It’s making the best use of the land in this economy,” Anderson says.

Call it mobile-home commerce.

This trailer park retail center is part of a trend that is poised to hit Dallas in 2011, and Oak Cliff is a big player in it.

Along with the retail center, plans are brewing for gourmet food trailers like the ones that became restaurant trendsetters in Portland, Ore., and Austin practically over night.

Oak Cliff-based carpenter Gary Buckner is converting trucks and trailers into mobile kitchens in anticipation of the food-trailer phenomenon.

Buckner reclaims wood — mostly from otherwise discarded pallets — and uses it to make furniture. He created the bar and most of the tables in the second floor of Eno’s, and he’s using reclaimed pallet wood to design the interior of Oddfellows, a new Bishop Arts District restaurant he co-owns.

Buckner employs the same concept to his food trailers. He’s restoring old campers, RVs and semi-trailers and decking them out with reclaimed wood and other materials.

That keeps a bunch of stuff out of the landfills and junkyards, and it makes for interesting design. Buckner is a carpenter and junk man, and he’s also an artist in metal and wood.

“Anyone can make a box as a food trailer with a window to serve food,” Buckner says. “My idea is to design a food trailer and make it neat.”

The city’s ordinances regarding food trucks haven’t been updated since the 1960s, and they’re not compatible with these new plans for gourmet food trailers. City council is expected to pass an updated ordinance as early as January, thanks to a push from the Dallas Arts District, which has plans for food trailers on Flora Street.

Once city council gives the go-ahead, Buckner expects to open his own concept in a gourmet food trailer here in Oak Cliff, and he’ll start customizing vehicles for other upstarts.

The retail use is allowed at the West Dallas RV park, Anderson says. Putting it in place will require approval from city council, but no zoning change. He expects the city to approve it by the end of the year.

“Once that happens, then we’ll put in a trailer immediately,” he says.

At least one tenant already is on board.

Matt Wilson, who owns Pain and Pleasure tattoo shop on Camp Wisdom Road, has plans to lease a space for a trailer to showcase famous tattoo artists.

Celebrities of the tattoo world will be invited to set up shop for a week or two at a time. Tattoo enthusiasts can meet them, see and buy their artwork, and get tattooed.

“I want it to be a little different from a typical tattoo shop,” he says.

And the trailer park is perfect for that. It’s quirky, artsy and accessible, he says.

“I think it will bring a lot of different people in,” he says.

Wilson plans to buy and customize a trailer for the new shop, and leasing the dirt will cost between $300-$400 a month. It’s a pretty big investment for him.

But Anderson hopes that business upstarts can flourish at the trailer park.

Tenants also have the option to lease a trailer, for a total monthly rent of $700-$900.

“If people had cheap enough rent, then with a little exposure, their little business might have a chance to make it,” Anderson says. “People need jobs, and we need the commerce.”