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Food trucks snowed in, shoveling out

Posted by Roy Greene  February 12, 2013 03:27 PM

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( Photo by Katlyn Gambill)


Roxy's Grilled Cheese Food Truck employees work on clearing a spot in front of the Boston Public Library in anticipation of opening their truck on Wednesday.

Streets were cleared of snow, sidewalks were semi-walkable — but for one industry, there were still headaches from snowstorm Nemo early this week.

Most of the designated food truck parking spots were taken — not by rival trucks, but instead by 5-foot-tall snow piles that took their places Monday and for some, into Tuesday. The lost business, which some truck owners blamed on the city, meant lost pay.

"Being a business owner, I didn't depend on today, but five of my employees that depend on a paycheck missed a paycheck today," said Avi Shemtov, owner of The Chubby Chickpea Food Truck, which normally parks on Trinity Place and Stuart Street on Tuesdays.

On Monday, most food truck spots weren't usable. Momogoose, an Asian cuisine food truck, managed to park all three of its trucks in its normal spots on Trinity Place in Back Bay, Clarendon Street in Copley, and in the Financial District. But it wasn't because they got lucky.

"We had to do it by hand," said Momogoose owner Tiffany Pham. Momogoose’s employees pitched in all weekend, including through the night, and managed to get all of the spots plowed by 11 a.m. on Monday — just an hour before opening.
Pham said sales were down in the aftermath of the storm, adding, “We had to spend so many man hours snow-shoveling, so you can imagine what that's doing to our business."

The City of Boston rents food truck spots throughout the city, in order to avert territorial fights and keep the process organized -- leading some owners to insist that the city should be responsible for clearing the spaces.

"We pay rent to the city," Pham said. "We expect (at) the minimum that the city would take care of the snow for us."

John Guilfoil, deputy press secretary for Mayor Menino, said the Mayor's Office of Food Initiatives “has been working closely with food truck operators to help them find a solution to clearing their spaces."

James DiSabatino of Roxy's Grilled Cheese said he planned to shovel out the truck’s spot in front of the Boston Public Library near Copley Square because the warmer weather had melted the snow to the point that heavy machinery was no longer necessary to remove it.

DiSabatino and the operator of Kickass Cupcakes had attempted to hire a private contractor to remove the snow for Monday's lunch and dinner services. But the estimate to hire a contractor to remove snow for all the food trucks came to about $10,000, according to DiSabatino, who called the figure "preposterous for a group of already struggling food trucks." Business slows down for the trucks in the winter months, even without major storms.

Greg Vasey, the Boston operating partner of The Taco Truck, which has locations in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, tried to look at the bright side.

“There's been a really positive response on the part of the food truck community, basically taking responsibility on ourselves," he said.

By Tuesday, city crews had plowed the street and sidewalk area for Momogoose, Mei Mei Street Kitchen and The Chubby Chickpea. That was a vast improvement over Monday, when Stuart Street barely had one lane plowed for cars, the food truck operators said.

"Everyone should be back to normal tomorrow, hopefully," said DiSabatino.

This article was reported and written under the supervision of Northeastern University journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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