2013-02-22 / Front Page

Fourth vendor must not sell meat

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

The owners of Portland’s Gorgeous Gelato decided not to bring their food cart back to Fort Williams Park this season, but the other three vendors will return. (Jack Flagler photo) The owners of Portland’s Gorgeous Gelato decided not to bring their food cart back to Fort Williams Park this season, but the other three vendors will return. (Jack Flagler photo) CAPE ELIZABETH — Three of the four food vendors at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth will return next season as the town’s pilot venture enters its third year.

Bite Into Maine, Frank’s Franks, and Atlantic Cookie Company will once again serve lobster rolls, hot dogs, cookies, and cold drinks among other snacks to tourists and locals who stop by the park. However, the owners of Gorgeous Gelato, new to Fort Williams last year, opted not to return in 2013.

“The place where we were located wasn’t close to the others, or to the lighthouse, so people had to buy (from the other carts) in one place and then go far away and walk a lot to reach the beach where we were located,” said Gorgeous Gelato co-owner Mariagrazia Zanardi. “We decided it’s not worth it.”

Gorgeous Gelato is located on Fore Street in the Portland’s Old Port, where Zanardi and her husband, Donato Giovine, run the shop after moving to Maine from Italy. They set up their cart in 2012 near the Shore Road entrance to Fort Williams at a site overlooking the beach before visitors reach Portland Head Light.

This year, Public Works Director Bob Malley said the site will be shifted slightly to the street level so the Ship Cove parking lot can be improved without construction affecting the food cart’s business.

Town Manager Mike McGovern hopes the adjustment will make the cart “a little more visible” to visitors who stop by the park. The town is accepting proposals from applicants to take over the location through Thursday, March 7.

Permit holders can set up their carts beginning Monday, April 1. The minimum bid for the beach overlook location is $3,000. Last year, Gorgeous Gelato paid $3,995 for its license.

The location change wasn’t enough to convince Zanardi and Giovone a return to Fort Williams would benefit Gorgeous Gelato. Zanardi and Giovone suggested a central food location in the park may benefit all vendors. If a family of four had one child who wanted gelato, one who wanted a hot dog and the parents wanted lobster rolls, they would be able to get everything in one place rather than walking the length of the entire park.

“We suggested this, but probably, (the organizers) don’t think it’s the right way,” Zanardi said.

Malley said the Fort Williams Advisory Commission hasn’t discussed the idea of a central food area yet, but agreed the topic is “worthy of discussion” and may come up this fall. He said the original idea to space out the vendors was to reduce competition for the same customers.

“Rather than having two people side by side selling the same thing, we wanted to spread them out so they can draw from different people and wouldn’t be competing for the same customer base,” Malley said.

The new food cart in the park this season will be restricted to cold beverages, snacks and ice cream and prohibited from selling sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs or processed meats. McGovern said that restriction is also to ensure that each vendor gets a fair shake, as there are already hot dog, lobster roll and sandwich vendors that have permits in the park.

“We don’t want four carts all selling the same thing. It’s not only about making money, it’s about enhancing the visit to the park,” McGovern said.

The town’s request for proposals stipulates that there are “no guarantees the program will continue in perpetuity.” Even though food will be available for a third consecutive year, McGovern said the town is always careful with any projects that relate to the much beloved park because residents are sensitive to changes there.

Malley added that the town has made it a priority to ensure any changes made are done so “tastefully” to keep the character of the park intact.

All revenue from the permit fees, likely to total nearly $16,000 this year, will go to the Fort Williams Park capital fund that supports future improvements to the park.

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