Weeks after a massive snowstorm, milder weather has made it possible for local vendors to break out the carts and offer their food for students and local community members.
Though most vendors hibernate during the winter season and “dust off” their carts to open for business in April, a few die-hard vendors brave the winter winds in order to bring their services to the community.
Sukhothai, one of the most prominent year-round food vendors in Library Mall, has been in business for 11 years, offering Thai cuisine in the Mall Concourse Area and Camp Randall for nine years.
Vending Oversight Committee (VOC) staffer and Street Vending Coordinator Warren Hansen recognizes Sukhothai as being an active food vendor within the community.
“They’re not only open [during the winter] because it works for them, but because they enjoy it,” Hansen said. “The whole family is involved … it’s part of their lifestyle.”
As expected, business during the winter season drops considerably, but Sukhothai owner Nan Slatter said she does not keep the cart open during the winter to make a bulky profit, but to maintain consistent services for students camping out in the libraries and around State Street.
“We keep relationships [with the students],” Slatter said. “I call everyone a friend.”
Margaret Kailhofer, owner of Maggs Creations Beaded and Wire Jewelry cart, similarly reveres relationships kindled through full-time outdoor vending.
“There’s so much more job satisfaction … I meet fantastically interesting people,” Kailhofer said.
Kailhofer previously served as the Graduate Coordinator for the University of Wisconsin, but said she has a profound appreciation for street vending compared to the conventional desk job.
“It’s very rough to be out here,” Kailhofer said. “It takes a definite dedication to come out here in the cold when you know that you’re only going to make $20 to $40 — if you’re lucky.”
She noted the day-to-day weather always seemed less important until she begin vending outdoors.
Another current issue for outdoor vendors has been the steamed conflict over late-night vending in residential areas. While the City Council made a move to ban carts set up after 9 p.m. in areas such as Langdon Street, vendors such as Gin’s Chicken and Fish are waiting for details as to when and where the ordinances will be enforced.
The VOC recently presented a recommendation to the council and is still waiting on a final vote and decision, according to committee member Karen Foxgrover.
As to the fate of late-night vendors, Hansen said he holds onto optimism. According to Hansen, after the final decision on late night vending, Gin’s Chicken and Fish and other vendors will be able to stay in business despite a possible location move.
“My impression is that the majority of late night vendors are open to the possibility of this new experiment working well,” Hansen said. “It’s human nature to resist change, but this may turn out to be a better opportunity than the circumstances we had in the past.”