Wednesday, July 13, 2011

[Concentrate] What Food Carts Say About Ann Arbor

"Mobile vending (food trucks and the like) in metro Detroit has  become a popular topic of conversation in the local media as of late. While the city of Detroit has come under heavy scrutiny about its barriers to entry, in Ann Arbor, Mark's Carts, the new food truck courtyard located on a private parcel of land on East Washington Street, has attracted the attention of mobile vending advocates, foodies, journalists and bloggers -- even Congressman John Dingell (whose visit in June was well-publicized).

'What differentiates Mark's Carts from other attempts at food truck operations is the fact that the trucks themselves are stationary and are located on private property owned by Mark Hodesh, who also owns the adjacent Downtown Home and Garden garden supply and kitchenware store.

''We had a small lot where we were just parking cars and an empty building that [for various reasons] we couldn't rent out,' explains Hodesh, who first became interested in food trucks after visiting his daughter in Brooklyn and witnessing the diverse offerings possible with mobile vending. The idea came to him to turn this lot and building into a food truck courtyard and kitchen.

''First, I have to say hats off to the Ann Arbor City Planning Division,' Hodesh says. 'My basic approach was, "Here's what I want to do; what do I need to do?" and they told me.' Because it is privately-owned property, Hodesh says there were no specific zoning ordinances he had to contend with.  The city doesn't really have a say in food sales on private property (just the Health Department). He also had a full commercial kitchen installed in the on-site building where the vendors prepare their food (as opposed to preparing the food inside the trucks themselves). Because of this highly unique (not to mention serendipitous) situation, Mark's Carts was rather easily made into a reality.

'The real question is: how do we create more places like Mark's Carts? ..."

Read the rest of the article here.