Mama Kim’s Korean BBQ — a longtime staple of the College Hill food scene — is now for sale, owner Don Fecher announced on the business’ Twitter and Facebook last Wednesday. The business, which now includes both a restaurant in Cranston and the well-known food truck, was founded by Sook Kim P’01 and Hyun Kim ’01 in 2011 and has only been sold once, to Fecher in 2014.
Food trucks on College Hill have been stymied recently by Providence Police officers for allegedly parking illegally in metered spaces, but Fecher said these conflicts have nothing to do with his decision to sell.
“I’ve been cooking for half of my life, and it’s time to move on,” Fecher said, adding that he is selling the business solely for “personal reasons.” Fecher intends to remain in the food business and will stay in Providence or neighboring areas after leaving Mama Kim’s, he said.
Fecher said he has been contacted by more interested buyers than he anticipated. “Obviously we have something good, and someone is going to come along who is the right fit for it,” he said. As to how he will decide who will continue running the business, Fecher said, “Whoever I see has the eye, the passion and the care for it … it’s not just going to anybody with a bunch of money.”
Though tensions with Providence Police officers have not had a significant impact on Mama Kim’s business, Fecher expressed disappointment with the way city officials have dealt with the situation. “I wish they would have handled it in some capacity, and I don’t feel like they have done anything,” he said.
“I’ve been doing business in this city for nearly five years, and I feel that they should have our back a little bit more. I’ve called and tried to reach out and see what I can do, and I haven’t really gotten much back — not from the board of licenses or the mayor’s office … or anything.”
“While all this happened, I decided to make another plan to move to another city, like Pawtucket,” Fecher said, adding that the truck has been warmly received there. “I called the mayor’s office directly and one of his staff called me back the next day, saying ‘Yes, we’d love to have you in our city.’ That’s the kind of city I want to … do business in.”
In the meantime, as Mama Kim’s seeks a new owner, the restaurant — but not the food truck — will re-open Monday after closing while Fecher was on vacation. The truck will be back “sooner than everybody thinks,” Fecher said. “We’re going to be back, whether we’re in Pawtucket, or on Thayer Street or in the area.”
Students remain disappointed with the reduced presence of food trucks on College Hill this semester but said they are optimistic that the trucks will make a return soon. “I think the bad weather makes it hard for the trucks to park in the right places,” said Marjorie Pang ’18. “Hopefully once it gets warmer, we will see the trucks returning to Thayer Street.”
“I do think Mama Kim’s and other food trucks will come back to Thayer Street soon,” said Christy Leung ’18. “Lots of students buy food from the trucks regularly, and I think the city will recognize that demand sooner or later.”
Progress is being made to help food trucks find a place in the city, said Eric Weiner, president of Food Trucks In, a company that provides people in over 765 cities with information about food trucks. The mayor’s office and the City Council are “working at the current rules with the understanding that changes need to be made.”
“Different people’s interests need to be figured out,” Weiner said, citing restaurants’ concern regarding the proximity of food trucks to their establishments and the University’s concern over limited parking space on College Hill for students, faculty members and staff members.
“It may mean that they might end up on Waterman (Street), further from the restaurants, or on Angell Street,” Weiner said, adding that “everyone is in agreement that food trucks have a home in Providence.”