Mark's Carts outdoor food courtyard wins retail award
Thomas Boulan, Photographer
And the outdoor food courtyard, located off West Washington Street between South First Street and South Ashley Street, eliminated the expensive overhead, and provided a small, temporary space to get restaurateurs started.
Hodesh struck a chord with Ann Arbor diners, providing a quick, $5 to $10 meal with food options all over the map.
The courtyard’s six vendors range from a strictly vegan cart to Asian street food and Spanish-style tapas.
Mark’s Carts drew crowds this summer, particularly when the weather was nice, and it also hosted live music, art galleries and various other community events. For these reasons, Mark’s Carts was honored Friday night as the Retail winner at AnnArbor.com Business Review’s 2011 Deals of the Year ceremony.
The idea for Mark’s Carts emerged from a vacancy in Hodesh’s 3,000-square-foot Union Building, located behind Downtown Home & Garden.
He decided to turn the vacancy into a commercial kitchen to rent space to independently owned food cart operators. Use of the kitchen, cart space and utilities cost vendors $7,500.
And Hodesh’s incubator idea proved successful. The courtyard has already served as a springboard for at least one food vendor: eat.
The vendor exited the courtyard in September to launch a catering business in the former Marcano’s Takeout space on Packard Road.
Co-owner Helen Harding told AnnArbor.com Mark’s Carts gave her the opportunity to expand her business into a larger, year-round operation.
“I think us moving from Mark’s Carts is kind of what Mark (Hodesh) had in mind,” she said. “I have a feeling other businesses from Mark’s Carts will be doing similar things in the future.”
The vegan food cart, The Lunch Room, also reported profits in the middle of the summer that far exceeded their expectations. After five weeks in operation, co-owner Phillis Engelbert said profits surpassed the cart’s initial $7,500 investment.
“The concept is working,” Hodesh said. “I think everyone knows what they are about and they are getting their bills paid. I think the carts are doing some very good business.”