Customers gathered around food trucks and chatted during the soft opening of the new Backyard State of Mind off Bluffton Road in mid-March. PHOTOS TIM WOOD

For years, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island residents wanted food trucks in town almost as much as they want a Trader Joe’s. When the trucks arrived and the ordinances passed, a battle began between restaurants, town officials and food truck owners on where they can park.

A long-time local business owner has created a permanent location to get your food truck fix.

Backyard State of Mind has opened at 163 Bluffton Road, in the back of the plaza that houses businesses like Bluffton Pharmacy and H&R Block.

The space is the brain child of David and Shelley Meeder, who own the plaza space with partners and have thinking of what to do with the space for years.

“I own a vacant lot, I like beer, I have loved food trucks for 15 years, so it really all came together,” David Meeder said. “This was a pre-COVID idea, but with COVID, we just missed live music so much. Now we’re coming out of COVID, we just want this space to be part of the community vibe. Folks want to get out, food trucks need a place to park, so this just works for everyone.”

The space is a work in progress, with room for three to four food trucks to go with an entertainment stage, picnic tables, bathrooms and two gigantic yellow Lowcountry lounge chairs with the BSOM logo, perfect for selfies and capturing the moment.

David owned a dry cleaner for “26 years and 15 days, not that I was counting” and Shelley is a long-time tennis pro at Shipyard Racquet Club. Neither have restaurant experience, other than being a frequent diner at area eateries.

“Sometimes, you go to restaurants in Old Town in prime time and there are 45-minute waits,” Shelley said. “This is a short walk from the heart of Old Town, and lets folks walk around, enjoy the outside, bring their kids and their dogs and have a variety of choices for lunch or dinner.”

The couple said they were inspired by spaces like Starland Yard food truck park in Savannah and Gather GVL in Greenville, as well as seeing a number of outdoor spaces during their RV travels last summer.

“Just to have that place to gather in the open air, it’s so important especially right now,” David said. “We had plans in the past to construct a building back there, but this just makes the most sense to utilize this space. We’ve had such a great response that this is a needed piece of the entertainment puzzle here.”

Not to mention the explosion of food truck operators in the geographical Lowcountry Triangle between Hilton Head, Bluffton and Beaufort alone.

“I had no idea there were 52 food trucks here, all licensed and insured,” David said. “It gives us a lot of variety to choose from and make sure folks’ favorites are always on our schedule.”

What you’ll see at Backyard State of Mind is a starting point, as the couple have grander plans for the future.

“I think we can double the size here. We want to add a covered area with heaters in the winters and fans in the summer, have a beer and wine cart and-or a container bar to create a beer garden atmosphere,” David said. “We’ll bring in a lot of TVs in that covered space to make it a place to watch sports events while you’re eating and enjoying the music.”

The Meeders said they are charging the food trucks a modest fee to take a spot each day, but that establishing a solid, respected roster of truck regulars is the most important aspect of selecting trucks for daily roster spots.

“We want to establish a habit, make this a must-see stop in the corridor between Old Town and Burnt Church Distillery, and attracting the most reliable, most consistently delicious chefs is our focus,” David said.

The Meeders said they’re leaning on their adult kids and marketing consultant Dayana Jara to help build out their social media, which has been very active in the early going on Instagram and Facebook especially.

Food truck operators on hand for the space’s opening weekend were thrilled with the location and the potential for Backyard State of Mind.

“When I first came from Connecticut, I was looking for food trucks, but they weren’t allowed, and that made me angry. Now, we are allowed but finding reliable spaces to park is always an issue,” said Joe DePatty, head chef and owner of Big Dog Tacos. “Places like this are a staple in thriving cities like L.A., Chicago, Portland, Austin and a must for a place with a lot of outdoor foot traffic like Bluffton. I’m so excited with this.

“It’s walking distance to Old town, I don’t have to be looking for parking spots or residential communities to book me now,” DePatty said. “I can’t wait for the spring and summer, and the fall with nice breezes. I know I will be anchored here as much as possible.”

Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at timwood@blufftonsun.com.