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Food Cart Fortitude; Staying Open During Shutdown

La Oie Cajun Cuisine sold out early on the first day of Phase II (Heather Howard/Clark Indy)

When Governor Inslee issued the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order on March 15, restaurants were only permitted to serve take out and delivery. Meanwhile, Food carts, which are remaining open during all phases of the shutdown, are still struggling to survive.

La Oie Cajun Cuisine and Banh Mi SaiGon are both located in the Brothers Cascadia Brewing parking lot in Hazel Dell. Rather than offering its own food service, Brothers Cascadia customers purchase beer from the brewery and food from the food carts. 

While hours slightly vary, La Oie is generally open during lunch hours from Tuesday to Saturday, and also open during dinner hours from Wednesday to Saturday. Banh Mi SaiGon is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday.

Christine Haas, owner of La Oie has had her cart in its current location since Oct. 2017. Haas states that since March 15, her sales have dropped as much as 40%, and some of her neighboring food carts were forced to temporarily close.

“I think if you’re a relatively new business, this would be hard for you,” said Haas. La Oie’s Facebook page shows a loyal following. When asked if she thought that following made a significant difference, Haas said that while she sees a lot of regulars, she’s also seen a lot of new people during these times. She said, “The community has been overall super supportive.”

Bao Sides owns the neighboring cart Banh Mi with her husband Jebediah. This cart has been at Brothers Cascadia since 2017, and they also opened a second cart last year in Hockinson. Sides said despite what she estimated to be a 20-30% downturn in business, she has been able to keep two part time staff employed throughout the pandemic.

Banh Mi SaiGon Food Cart in Hazel Dell (Heather Howard/Clark Indy)

Steakburger, which evolved from a long-established, family-owned brick-and-mortar restaurant, reported different results. Steakburger’s manager Tina Condon travels with her food truck to a different location in the area each day. “I started moving around about four years ago,” Condon said.

Steakburger is only open from 11 a.m. to 2 or 2:30 p.m. six days per week, but Condon said that her business has improved during the shutdown due to the takeout/delivery only restrictions. “Our staple is our hamburger, but we’ve brought in several new things.”

Condon believes other food carts and trucks have suffered more due to cancelled public events and markets. In addition, businesses such as hospitals are temporarily prohibiting food carts on their property due to Coronavirus precautions.

Sides said it was hard to say how quickly business will pick up with Phase II reopening, but as of an hour before their scheduled closing time on day one, La Oie was completely sold out.

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