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Mobile vendors unite in Newfoundland and Labrador

Partners Allyson Howse (left) and Brad Gover (right) operate the food truck Saucy Mouth in Mount Pearl, and recently started a mobile vendors association along with other vendors in the metro area.
Partners Allyson Howse (left) and Brad Gover (right) operate the food truck Saucy Mouth in Mount Pearl, and recently started a mobile vendors association along with other vendors in the metro area. - submitted

‘Looking out for our best interests collectively as an industry’: Chair

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Since 2008, there’s been a 220 per cent increase in the number of food trucks requesting permits in St. John’s.

With growing numbers, and municipal bylaws that some vendors feel don’t address their unique businesses, mobile vendors united to form the Mobile Vendors Association of Newfoundland (MVAN).

Association chair Allyson Howse said MVAN will connect mobile vendors across the province, advocate for mobile businesses and work with municipalities to update and change bylaws.

“Unfortunately, in some cases, (bylaws) can be very outdated. For instance, some bylaws that affect mobile vending haven’t really changed since the 90s, but the industry has exploded.”

MVAN currently has seven mobile businesses as directors of the association: Hitchen the Kitchen, Scout, Big Boy Baos, Quidi Vidi Fish n’ Chips, Johnny & Mae’s, Ziggy Peelgood’s, and Saucy Mouth, which Howse owns and operates with her partner Brad Gover. 

Howse said the association is “excited to have (Ziggy Peelgood’s) expertise around the table” because it’s one of the most established mobile food businesses in the province.

She said the association soon plans to actively invite other vendors to become members.

Johnny and Mae's, owned and operated by Kyle and Alicia McKenna, is one of the seven mobile businesses serving as founding directors for the newly formed Mobile Vendors Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. - SaltWire File Photo
Johnny and Mae's, owned and operated by Kyle and Alicia McKenna, is one of the seven mobile businesses serving as founding directors for the newly formed Mobile Vendors Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. - SaltWire File Photo

“We just incorporated recently, and we literally had our second meeting this week, so it’s very, very new.

“However, we’re already getting lots of calls and messages, which is wild considering how new we are, but there’s a real demand for food trucks and lots of people looking for support in opening mobile businesses.

“Therefore, there’s also a real need for us to work together and collaborate and make sure that we’re doing the best we can. As an association, it’s important that we’re looking out for our best interests collectively as an industry.”

Addressing inconsistencies

At a St. John’s city council meeting on May 13, deputy mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said the city is seeing an increasing desire for mobile food trucks.

In 2008, the capital city had just five requests for food truck permits — that number dropped to four in 2011. But around 2013 and 2014 the numbers spiked. Eighteen permits were issued in 2014, and this year there were 16 permits issued.

MVAN members listed 40 to 45 food trucks they’re aware of in the province.

“By this time next year there’ll probably be 65 to 70 would be my guess,” said member Sullivan Power, owner of the Hitchen the Kitchen food truck and downtown restaurant Blue on Water.

Power's been running Hitchen the Kitchen in St. John’s for six years, and he said the city is inconsistent in the documents he’s expected to provide.

“If it’s like this for me, it’s like this for every single person that’s trying to do this. And if I complain, they don’t care – I’m just one mobile vendor. But my main goal was just, OK guys, there’s more power in numbers. Now all of us want to be on the same page.”

He said now that the vendors have organized, he’s hopeful the process will become more streamlined.

“As a group, we can be more organized and work with (the city) to be like, ‘Hey, let us help you make this job easier.’ We don’t want to cause trouble, we don’t want to make it harder on you — we want to make it easier for everyone. It should be a straightforward process.”

"We don’t want to cause trouble, we don’t want to make it harder on you — we want to make it easier for everyone." — Sullivan Power

Howse said Saucy Mouth has had “an amazing experience” operating in both Bonavista and Mount Pearl, adding the City of Mount Pearl “has been incredible to us.”

“Sadly, we haven’t always had that same experience elsewhere. I think a lot of it is just that it is such a new industry here, and it’s growing so fast that sometimes legislation just doesn’t catch up as quickly as the industry grows.

“That’s definitely something that we’re interested in working with municipalities on, and learning from them, too, as we go. There might be some room for sharing some knowledge and educating on the nature of our business and what it involves.”

The association also hopes to do a launch and a collaborative mobile vendor event in September once their busy summer season winds down.

Twitter: @juanitamercer_


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