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AMERICAN MOSAIC - A New Way to Shop: The Fashion Truck

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The fashion truck trend is gaining popularity in cities across the country, including Los Angeles. (VOA / E. Lee)
The fashion truck trend is gaining popularity in cities across the country, including Los Angeles. (VOA / E. Lee)

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I'm June Simms.

On our show this week, we play music by The Lumineers.

We tell about some happenings in the world of football…

But first, how about going for a shopping trip...on a parked truck?

Fashion Trucks

For many years, food vendors in American cities have offered "meals on wheels" --- selling food from trucks. Hungry people can find more than just hot dogs or pretzels in these vehicles. Many serve high-quality food from other cultures.

Now looking for new clothing is becoming as easy and satisfying as exploring the tasty offerings of food trucks. Kelly Jean Kelly tells us about a new movement: the fashion truck.

Once a month, just after sunset, trucks fill an outdoor parking lot in Los Angeles, California. Some trucks sell all kinds of food products, from sweet ice cream to spicy seafood. Others have clothing or jewelry for sale. These vehicles are known as fashion trucks.

Many people have never seen a fashion truck before.

"When you come in, it's kind of like like going into a closet, you know, and you sift through everything. It's really cute."

Janelle Shepard is exploring everything inside the J. D. Luxe fashion truck. The back of the truck is a mini-store. Clothing hangs on one side. Jewelry and purses are on the other side. The store is stylish and looks well organized. There is also a very small room for trying on clothes.

Jordana Fortaleza is one of the store's owners.

"We have a lot of handmade jewelry, handmade clothing, handmade purses."

She says the cost of owning a truck is much lower than making monthly payments for temporary use of store. And there is another reason to use a truck.

"You're able to travel to your demographic."

In other words, you can take your business to the customers. But Jordana Fortaleza admits there are difficulties.

"The biggest challenge is definitely the weather. When it's cold, it's cold outside and there's no one here."

Another issue is keeping the truck in good condition. When a vehicle breaks down, the repairs can take days. Business stops during the repair work. That is what happened to Stacey Steffe's fashion truck. So, for now, she is stuck in the office.

"We find ourselves in the [mechanic] shop at least once a year. Things happen. Our little truck's a little older."

She says her 38-year-old fashion truck was the first in Los Angeles. That was two years ago. She started the West Coast Mobile Retail Association after more fashion trucks started to appear in the city. Now the group has a nationwide membership of almost fifty trucks.

Stacey Steffe says the weak economy is driving the industry.

"A lot of people have gone from brick and mortar to a mobile truck because it's allowed them to keep their business afloat."

Meagan Rogers is a fashion school graduate. She says owning a fashion truck has enabled her to start earning money while her classmates are still working in unpaid positions.

"The job market is so hard right now."

Fashion trucks are giving Internet businesses some competition. California Fashion Association President Ilse Metchek says impulse purchases were once a big part of in-store sales. Impulse buyers are people who make purchases because of a sudden urge. Now many people make purchases online, where Ms. Metchek says impulse buying is rare. She says American shoppers may be more compulsive in fashion trucks.

"This is a way to attract impulse purchasing. There's a lot of money out there right now, just a lot of loose change."

And there is a lot to purchase with that loose change. Stacey Steffe says business owners are putting more than just nice stores on wheels.

"Any kind of business you can put in brick and mortar, you can put into a vehicle."

So, there is a truck that sells flowers, and another that features specialty sportswear. A non-profit group, St. Vincent de Paul, sells used goods from its store on wheels. Such trucks have also attracted the attention of local officials. Ms. Steffe says she is working with the city of San Francisco to create laws to rule the growing industry.

Football News

Americans this week have been asking questions about a star football player, Manti Te'o.

Manti Te'o is a linebacker for the University of Notre Dame, a school in Indiana. He helped the team win all of its twelve games in the 2012 regular season. His team went on to the college football's national championship game. It lost to University of Alabama.

Manti Teo
Manti Teo

Te'o led Notre Dame in tackles and interceptions. He was a nominee for an important honor in college football, the Heisman Trophy.

When asked about his performance on the field, Manti Te'o said he played well because of his girlfriend, who died recently. He said the girlfriend, Lennay Marie Kekua, was a victim of the disease leukemia. He said she died on the same day that his grandmother died last September.

But, there was a problem. The girlfriend never existed. Last week, a sports website, Deadspin, reported that the story was not true. When the website asked Notre Dame about it, university officials said the story was a "sophisticated hoax."

​​In a statement, Te'o said he had met the woman through the Internet and continued the relationship online. He added that the whole incident had been painful and humiliating. Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said Manti Te'o told the university about the problem on December 26th. He said a private investigation ordered by the university suggested that the player was a victim of a mean joke.

Now, Manti Te'o has admitted that he lied --- at least, in part. Te'o spoke to Katie Couric, a reporter for ABC News. He said he got a call from someone claiming to be Keuka on December 6th. So, Te'o said, he realized she was not dead. But he continued with that story publicly.

In other football news, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are busy preparing for the Super Bowl. They will play for the championship of professional football Sunday, February 3rd.

The game should be very memorable. Jim Harbaugh is head coach of the 49ers, while his brother John is head coach for the Ravens. Their father Jack, a former coach, says he is giving his sons the same advice he gives to others in football: "Get ahead, stay ahead."

The Lumineers

The Lumineers is a band based in Denver, Colorado. The group released its first album, "The Lumineers," last April. Recently, the record went gold, meaning 500 thousand copies had been sold.

Faith Lapidus has more on the group, The Lumineers, and the album.

The Lumineers
The Lumineers

The most popular song from the album is "Ho, Hey." It is number one on three Billboard singles charts: rock, adult pop and alternative. A lot of people think of "Ho, Hey" as a love song. And, The Lumineers say it is. But, lead singer and guitarist Wesley Schultz says it is also about his personal struggles when he was living and working in New York City.

The three members of The Lumineers were excited when asked to perform at the Grammy nominations concert. But they were also very surprised when they were named as nominees. The band is up for Grammy awards as Best New Artist and Best Americana Album. Drummer Jeremiah Fraites told reporters, "We had no idea."

Jeremiah Fraites and Wesley Schultz grew up in New Jersey and have been playing music together for about eight years. They found cellist Neyla Pekarek, a native of Denver, after they moved to that city.

Critics have mostly praised "The Lumineers." Some have called the album's sound, "expansive," and its songs, "inventive."

Neyla Pekarek told one reporter that the band's style developed naturally. She said it came from a lot of writing, experimenting and making changes to let the lyrics tell the stories they were meant to tell.

We leave you with one of those stories. This is "Stubborn Love" from the album "The Lumineers."​​​​

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