York, PA -
If Jennifer Philippe wins the lottery, she's going
Actually, she already has the stand, a wheeled vendor's cart with a double-sink and a pair of griddles. She studied in France, and she has enough money to get the business rolling.
What she doesn't have is permission from city officials.
That's because, starting in 2011, York city limited the annual number of food-vendor carts allowed on Continental Square to just one. If there are multiple applicants, the city holds a lottery for the spot. That's what happened last year, and a local hot dog vendor won.
"I understand the need for rules and guidelines, but it seems like a waste," the Spring Garden Township resident said last week. "It seems like the area is not very conducive to business."
City officials say it's a balancing act.
Councilman Michael Helfrich said the rule limiting street vendors "makes a lot of sense." It protects restaurant owners who pay taxes in the city.
Cart vendors have an unfair advantage, Helfrich said.
"There's a free market and then there's a fair market, and they aren't the same thing," he said. "We need to help the established businesses who are trying to keep the lights on."
Councilwoman Renee Nelson said the 2011 deal, which doubled the required distance of carts from established restaurants, was necessary.
"I think it was a fair compromise," she said.
But Philippe questions a decision that she says stifles small business.
Right now Philippe works part-time, but spends hours downtown at YorKitchen, selling at events like First Friday to keep her business' name out there. "Sucré Salé," or "sweet and savory," takes as much work as any such venture.
"Is it protectionist? Probably," she said of the current system. "Why? I don't know. There needs to be more discussion here."
Kevin Schreiber, York's director of economic development, said the city previously received complaints about the handful of street vendors downtown. Some complaints were about cleanliness, he said, and some were from restaurant owners who didn't like the competition.
There's never been a swell of downtown cart vendors looking for a spot, Schrieber said, either before or since the ordinance change. And the carts are not a money-generator for the city, he said.
"I wouldn't say we're pro or con on food vendors based on revenue," he said. "It's really up to the community to decide."
Schreiber said discussion of the ordinance could come up again, especially as Continental Square revitalization moves forward. In the meantime, city staff works within the rules to nurture business, he said.
Philippe met with Schreiber last week to explore options. Schreiber said the pair spoke about applying for special event licenses. If approved, a vendor can set up a dozen times a year.
But soon, the lottery comes back to town.
Top prize: 365 days worth of sidewalk-side selling.
Philippe said if she wins, she'll bring something different downtown. She'll fire up the burners and ladle on the batter, making everything from ham-and-cheese snacks to sweet desserts, dusted with powdered sugar.
She already has two good helpers -- ages 8 and 4 -- who excel, in particular, at taste-testing. She hopes someday to get them more involved, and maybe even quit that part-time job. It's a family business in the making.
Right now, though, her new cart remains parked in the garage.
Philippe said she and husband, Romuald, recently bought a minivan with a trailer hitch. She confessed they've even hooked up the cart a few times. They drove around the neighborhood, she said, for practice.
And they wanted to get the lay of the land.
"If we can't make it work in the city," she said, "I guess we'll take the business somewhere else."
York city will hold a lottery to choose a 2013 food-cart vendor for Continental Square.
Tamika Rascoe, city health and sanitation officer, said on Tuesday that two people have applied for the license. City residents are given priority, she said, and applications will be accepted through the end of the week. Applicants' food carts must pass a health inspection.
Rascoe said a date for this year's lottery has not yet been determined.
What's a crepe?
A crepe is made by pouring a thin batter, usually made from wheat or buckwheat flour, onto a frying pan or flat grill.
Crepes are French in origin and are served with a wide array of fillings. Those vary from sweet crepes, which can include fruit or powdered sugar, to savory varieties that can include cheese, vegetables meat or other fillings.