Despite several challenges, Hermiston’s experiment with a food cart pod last year was deemed a success and has received the go-ahead for a second year by the Hermiston City Council.
The pilot program ran from April through November in a city-owned parking lot on Orchard Avenue across from the post office. Hermiston City Planner Clint Spencer said that while the program was a hit with both vendors and customers, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed – including its current location – to make the food cart pod a long-term success.
The lack of an available water source kept a number of potential vendors away, and limited parking and a lack of shade presented problems for customers. Spencer told the city council on Monday that the original goal was to have a minimum of four vendors and a maximum of eight.
“Over the year, we always had at least two, sometimes four operating,” said Spencer. “We had trouble getting four vendors.”
Spencer said it would cost between $4,000 and $5,000 to hook up a water source for vendors. Safety was an issue as well with cars pulling right up to the vendors’ carts.
One of the vendors who had success at the food cart pod was Patrick Hunt, who ran his Southern Twain BBQ from the lot. He had originally operated in Pendleton, but said he made more money staying home in Hermiston. Still, he believes improvements can be made.
“If we had the infrastructure, we’d get vendors from the Tri-Cities,” he said. “Shade is an issue, but overall the community is pumped about it.”
Hunt suggested moving the pod to Butte Park near Funland. It’s an area that attracts crowds for soccer, the July Fourth celebration and is next to the sprayground and near the aquatic center.
The council directed Spencer to continue the program this year at its current spot on Orchard Avenue while work is done to find a more suitable location in the future.
“There is a need there and it was very popular,” said Councilor Jackie Myers. “It’s a need that is being filled, but it’s not quite there yet.”
Council member Doug Primmer said a better location is needed.
“I think we need to find a permanent location and move forward,” he said. “It’s obvious this is something the people want.”