Just a few months ago, the Upper Westside Yard in Riverside (2061 Main Street Northwest) housed the ruins of the burned B’s Cracklin barbecue restaurant and an empty green lawn. This desolate landscape signaled a call to action from a Riverside entrepreneur—and now owner of the Upper Westside Yard food truck park—Lenise Williams.
“The neighborhood is really growing. A lot of people are moving in, especially a lot of younger people with kids, and we just don’t have all of the things that I feel that I would like in a neighborhood,” Williams says.
In just three months, Williams transformed the outdoor space into a food truck park where Riverside residents will have more options for not only food, but also games and entertainment. Although the park is still undergoing renovations, Williams says neighbors can expect community movie nights, yoga on the lawn, farmers markets, and other pop-ups in the near future.
Between vegan pizza, Capri Sun-esque pouched to-go cocktails, and what seemed like an endless list of snow cones flavors, the June 3 soft opening was nothing short of what Williams envisioned for the neighborhood. With five food and beverage vendors, all of whom sold out by 8:30 p.m., neighbors were able to rendezvous as they enjoyed games like giant Connect Four and giant Jenga and danced to old-school and new-school tracks spun by a live DJ.
Williams originally brought the building that houses the green lawn space for her leather goods business, Made Leather Co., later embarking on a journey to figure out how to utilize all the empty space that was behind the building. As a way to give back to the community, she figured a shared space where neighbors can spend the time to get to know each other and enjoy good food would be the missing puzzle piece that Riverside longed for.
“When you think about investing in a community, it’s really full-circle because you support other businesses, they support you, and likewise with homeowners,” said Angela DiMaggio, who drove from New Orleans to support Williams’ new endeavor on Friday. “You get to know your neighbors, and you have neighbors who are meeting each other for the first time.”
Following their grand opening on June 11, the park is now open Fridays from 3-9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 2-9 p.m. Vendors can sign up for one of six slots that are available each day.