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Posted on Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Mark's Carts to finish 'successful' first season next week, plans reopening in spring

By Lizzy Alfs


Mark's Carts, located off West Washington Street in downtown Ann Arbor, will close for the season on Nov. 12. It will reopen April 1.

Thomas Boulan, Photographer

Mark's Carts, the outdoor food courtyard in downtown Ann Arbor, will close for the season on Nov. 12, and is scheduled to reopen for its second season on April 1.

Mark Hodesh, owner of Ann Arbor’s Downtown Home & Garden, launched Mark’s Carts in May behind his store on South Ashley Street.

The courtyard had eight independently owned food vendors throughout the summer, with a range of food products and specialties. At any given time, there were six or seven carts in the courtyard.

Mark’s Carts drew crowds this summer, particularly during nice weather, and it also hosted live music, art galleries and other community events.

Acting as an incubator for restaurateurs, several of the food vendors said the courtyard was the perfect opportunity to dive into Ann Arbor’s food scene.

Keith Ewing, owner of the Humble Hogs food cart, said revenue at his cart for the season was about $22,000, which fell in line with what he expected.

“We knew from research to expect $10,000 to $50,000 depending on how many days you were open,” Ewing said.

Jay Scott, owner of the cart Debajo del Sol, said his numbers were a little better than he initially projected.

"We were able to pay off our start up costs and we will be back next year," he said.

And looking back after the first season, Hodesh considers his idea a success. He told the interest from the public far exceeded his expectations.

“The first season has been successful beyond my wildest dreams,” Hodesh said in a news release. “I took a chance on an idea that I have seen work in other cities, and I am thrilled that Ann Arbor has embraced it.”

Hodesh said he plans to keep Mark’s Carts “basically” the same next season, but will likely expand the hours.

“It’s going to be close to the same, except for some subtle operational things,” he said. “We’re going to encourage more afternoon and evening hours from the carts.”

Plans during the offseason vary for the six remaining carts in the courtyard, but all of the vendors can still rent space in the commercial kitchen at Hodesh’s Union Building, he said.

Phillis Engelbert, co-owner of The Lunch Room, said she plans to continue using the kitchen and the cart to sell food at different events and locations. The Lunch Room is already selling products at other locations.

“We will wholesale our cookies to Lab Cafe and hopefully other establishments,” she said.

Ewing of Humble Hogs said he will also continue to rent kitchen space and will move into wholesale and retail opportunities nationwide.

Scott said Debajo del Sol will operate three days a week at Wolverine State Brewing Co., and one day near the University of Michigan campus.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Sat, Nov 5, 2011 : 1:03 a.m.

I go for the music. There was a great band playing there this summer.

Anne R.

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

I enjoyed a fantastic breakfast burrito there recently. And a super soup lunch. I wish there were a way I could park briefly nearby so as to pick up deli dinner fare. That's the one big lack. I see Mark has a glassed in showroom(?) adjacent. It'd be fun to make that into a warm dining spot over the winter. This business was even featured recently in the New York Times's big 2-page travel section spread "36 Hours in Ann Arbor." It's creative and a boost to the economy, too.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

Wish i'd stopped by.. Next year for sure. I spend alot of time in Austin texas where food cart courts are all the rage... with some achieving national level niche prominence. Wouldnt that be nice here too ( e.g. some of the better local chefs starting cart service).


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

I will check them out next spring hopefully


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

Mark's Carts is a wonderful addition to downtown, and they all deserve congratulations. But's coverage of the venture is starting to rival the Ann Arbor Observer's love affair with Zingerman's!

Ron Granger

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Impossible! You can't start a business without the advice of the highly compensated SPARK executives!


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

Congrats to all.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

Do they pay you for all these advertisements?


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

It's new, it's different for this town. A story about Mark's Carts is a story about several businesses. Five articles a year about a successful food business is better than 5 articles a DAY about a. (not as successful?) football team! But, to each his own.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 11:40 a.m.

Yeah I'm with MikeA. Why another story bout this business? I mean I am glad they are foing good but this is maybe the fifth article this year about them. What gives. Seriously. It's really starting to look questionable, and frankly objectionable.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 10:58 a.m.

Mark's Carts is a featured business in an article agaiin? I'm all for positive business news but this business gets more press than any other in Ann Arbor, why is that? Seems to me should share the wealth.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 10:41 a.m.

Wonderful. Wonderful. Always great to hear stories about success. Have not had an opportunity to visit the courtyard, but had have very good revenues about it. Hope to make it next year. Have a great winter and see ya in the spring.