UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

Fashion-forward trucks bring the shopping to you




Over the past few years, the mobile business concept has grown considerably in the greater Houston area.

The food trucks were the first to arrive on the scene, and it has been an uphill battle as they have had to fight city ordinances and “taco truck” stereotypes simultaneously.

Recently though, Houston food trucks developed a dedicated, cult-like following and several other types of mobile businesses have emerged.

The Urban Izzy truck is styled inside and out. The truck boasts two chairs outside and a canopy on the exterior of the truck, clothing carefully displayed along one interior wall, and a variety of accessories along the other.  Sarah Platt, owner of Urban Izzy, said most of her products come from local artists.

Platt said her boutique on wheels was the first in Houston and that the growing food truck industry did help contribute to the idea.

“It’s always been my dream, forever to have a boutique,” Platt said. “I was brainstorming, and putting a boutique on wheels came up. When I thought about it, I fell in love with the idea.”

She is not the only one who has fallen in love with the mobile boutique concept. There are several fashion trucks in the Houston area today with hundreds of dedicated followers on social media sites, which are usually the best way to find the mobile businesses.

The Shoe Bar is a sleek, white trolley stocked with shoes that travels around Houston, and it gets nearly equal praise for the style of its shoes and the beauty of its trolley.

Height of Vintage sells vintage items on its online Etsy shop but also sells locally through Stella, a ’72 Scotty Serro travel trailer that has been remodeled into the Height of Vintage mobile shop.

Fashion is not the only new truck industry. Several other ideas have come to life in Houston.

If a used bookstore could be condensed into a single aisle by removing all of the excess and leaving only the favorites, whether classic or modern, the result would look something like the Billy Pilgrim Traveling Library.

The two long interior walls are lined with shelves full of neatly sorted books, CDs, movies, and even VHS tapes. There is a free books bin and a sign advertising children’s paperbacks for one dollar.

Creators Chris Grawl and Kelly Allen run the library with a unique rent, barter or donate system.  Annual membership to the library starts at just $5 to rent one book at a time but they will also barter – for money or goods – if a customer wants a book to keep. The donations they get go directly to the shelves, Allen said.

The greater Houston area has several public library locations and bookstores, but, as far as Grawl and Allen are aware, theirs is the only bookmobile in Houston.

Grawl said the idea behind the library was  “to bridge the gap between a consumer culture and just culture.”

“People think they need to buy things to absorb things,” Grawl explained. “We sort of give them the option to do it in a more frugal manner.”

The business model for most of the trucks is one that thrives on a friendly team environment. The trucks coordinate events together, such as the bi-monthly Fashion Truck Festival at Liberty Station, and frequently give each other referrals.

The community environment, rising business, and growing fan base are opening doors for entrepreneurs across Houston and could pave the way for an even greater variety of businesses that travel to the customer.