Mark's Carts to finish 'successful' first season next week, plans reopening in spring
Thomas Boulan, Photographer
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 AnnArbor.com 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.