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 Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS???

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Chicago1222

  • Total Posts: 8
  • Joined: 10/11/2010
  • Location: Chicago, IL
Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Mon, 10/11/10 9:34 PM (permalink)
Hi!

We are opening a coffee/ breakfast  trailer in Chicago, and we were wondering if anyone is familiar with running a Mobile Coffee Shop/ Cafe in cold weather months? We originally were planning to open in summer, but with converting an old 28' AIRSTREAM ....contractors took a bit longer than expected...
Everything would be ready to go by November, but we are wondering how difficult it will be to run through the winters here? ( Chicago is verrrry cold!) Otherwise the other option is to hold off til next year, March 2011... 

Does anyone have experience and advice they can offer on this?
I have read in other forums to use heating tape on pipes?
When it gets to 20 - 30 degrees and below how do you manage? (water tanks, espresso machine... preventing freezing?)  Also, keeping warm enough to operate?
Does anyone store overnight?
 
We do plan on serving coffee/ expresso drinks/ pastries and soups if we are able to open in cold weather!!  
 
 Any insight would be greatly appreciated! Chicago doesn't have a consistent mobile vending scene due to the ordinances here....but it took us a year to get through!!

Thanks! 
 
#1
    BuddyRoadhouse

    • Total Posts: 4076
    • Joined: 12/10/2004
    • Location: Des Plaines, IL
    Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Mon, 10/11/10 10:39 PM (permalink)
    Welcome to Roadfood C-1222!  You'll find a lot of your Chicago brethren here on the site.  Also, a lot of Milwaukee folks who we get together with in  both cities and many points in between.
     
    You would do well to also visit LTHForum.com for advice.  Not because it is any better than Roadfood, but because it is based here in Chicago and is populated by a lot of Chicago Restaurant Professionals who have experienced a lot of what you are about to go through.
     
    Has the city passed any new legislation regarding mobile food establishments?  Last I read, you couldn't do any actual prep in the trailer.  All food had to be fully prepped and cooked in an approved brick and mortar location and then transported to be served in a mobile venue.  There are a lot of food entrepreneurs lobbying the city to change the law, but I don't think it has passed yet.  How will that effect what you are trying to do?
     
    Wishing you the best of luck and hoping you'll let us know when you're open.  The Contingent (the Milwaukee/Chicago group I mentioned earlier) might just show up to support you by buying a few dozen cups of coffee and some sweet rolls.
     
    Buddy
     
    #2
      Chicago1222

      • Total Posts: 8
      • Joined: 10/11/2010
      • Location: Chicago, IL
      Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Mon, 10/11/10 11:06 PM (permalink)
      Thanks for the info Buddy! I will look into those as well, I also look on coffeeforums.com, they have been very helpful too.  But, I need some midwesterners that can relate to the weather experience.
       
      Yeah, I have read up on it, the ordinance hasn't officially passed yet.  They're is strong lobbying to get the ban lifted right now.  Most are projecting that their will be a lot of headway with Daley leaving office.  I've heard Evanston area is making a lot of progress in passing some ordinances to allow mobile food vendors to operate though, most likely this upcoming Spring. We actually are approved by park concessions and also a separate cooks union in Humboldt Park.  There are a couple concession trailers in the Humboldt Park area, we will be on Park Grounds, but right off of North Ave and we took the health/sanitation courses and have retro-fitted airstream to code specifics.  We will primarily be serving coffee/ expresso, teas, hot chocolate drinks and various pastries, everything puerto rican inspired to keep the character integrity of our area.   In summer we will sell various (batidas) similar to fruit smoothies and a couple sandwiches....but we really would like to get up and going this winter and serve some soups as well!
       
      Thanks for the support!!
       
      #3
        BuddyRoadhouse

        • Total Posts: 4076
        • Joined: 12/10/2004
        • Location: Des Plaines, IL
        Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Tue, 10/12/10 2:11 AM (permalink)
        I'm well familiar with Humboldt Park and those wonderful food carts.  My Dad grew up in HP in the 30s and 40s.  My Grandparents still lived there when I was a kid in the early 60s so I knew the park as well.  I remember many happy yet frustrating days spent trying to climb up on the bronze buffalo statues near the rose garden.  Watching the neighborhood kids swimming in the lagoon.
         
        The area is coming around again and they've resuscitated the park after many years of neglect.  We've been to the food carts a few times and I've been trying to organize a Contingent trip focused on street food that would include the carts.
         
        Chicago winters can be tough.  Those Humboldt Park carts are open year round, I believe.  You might want to approach some of them to find out how they deal with the cold.  If you can manage to open for the winter, I think you'll do well.  Hot chocolate and a selection of teas and coffees will serve the public well during those cold months.
         
        Are you a Humboldt Park resident?  Are you of Puerto Rican or Hispanic descent?  Just wondering.
         
        Buddy
         
        #4
          Chicago1222

          • Total Posts: 8
          • Joined: 10/11/2010
          • Location: Chicago, IL
          Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Tue, 10/12/10 11:46 AM (permalink)
          Oh, glad to know your familiar with the HP area!  We love the gardens by the buffalo's now....the park has really changed these past couple years.  Walking through the paths are beautiful now.....
          I am of hungarian and colombian descent and my husband is puerto rican/ mexican, we do live one block away from the park, so everything is literally right there for us.
           
          The other vendors usually close down when it gets really cold, usually December and January and then reopen, so they haven't had much advice.  I think we would do well, but the weather factor really worries us with an expresso machine and possible pipes freezing....   
           
           
           
          #5
            mimi26

            • Total Posts: 2
            • Joined: 10/12/2010
            • Location: pompano beach, FL
            Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Tue, 10/12/10 2:49 PM (permalink)
            Hello,
            I just joined, awesome forum!
            I was wondering how much it cost you to convert your airstream and did you just contact a local contractor?
            We were thinking of doing something similiar in South Florida...
            Thanks
             
             
            #6
              Chicago1222

              • Total Posts: 8
              • Joined: 10/11/2010
              • Location: Chicago, IL
              Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Tue, 10/12/10 3:08 PM (permalink)
              Hi!
               
              Well the airstream itself, we got a deal, $2300.  It took a lot of searching on craigslist.   The converting part is what cost more money.  I would say close to 20k with labor and all equipment included.  We completely gutted though.  And placed stainless steel counters customized to fit around curves of airstream.  We had some issues with one of our contractors which probably cost us a little extra, but it was a learning experience.....I just looked for contractors on craigslist and we kind of weeded them out from there.    But we needed a welder, electrician, plumber, and carpenter.  For the outside we are having a partial wrap for curb appeal.
               
              Hope that helps!
               
              #7
                Chicago1222

                • Total Posts: 8
                • Joined: 10/11/2010
                • Location: Chicago, IL
                Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Tue, 10/12/10 3:26 PM (permalink)
                --Mimi26
                 
                Are you anywhere near Hallandale in South FL? My mother in law lives there. 
                 
                #8
                  mimi26

                  • Total Posts: 2
                  • Joined: 10/12/2010
                  • Location: pompano beach, FL
                  Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Tue, 10/12/10 5:20 PM (permalink)

                  e
                  Were in Pompano Beach. Thanks for the reply!
                  I used to live in Milwaukee and frequented Chicago lots.  Love that city! Your idea sounds good. Where are you guys going to get your coffee from? Intelligentsia? or do you roast your own?
                   
                   
                  #9
                    lornaschinske

                    • Total Posts: 1610
                    • Joined: 3/4/2009
                    • Location: Roswell, NM until we leave for another place
                    Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Tue, 10/12/10 5:52 PM (permalink)
                    I can't believe what people do to an Airstream. that is just soooo,,,, wrong! Like painting a Victorian all one colour! Airstreams should be lovingly restored!  I love the lines of a vintage Airstream... it's not like it's a MIDAS Mini!
                     
                    #10
                      Curbside Grill

                      • Total Posts: 3916
                      • Joined: 10/11/2007
                      • Location: Lawrenceburg, TN
                      Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Thu, 10/14/10 4:47 AM (permalink)
                      I love the idea of air streams adapted to food service. They are so temping to go with the flow.
                       
                      #11
                        Riss

                        • Total Posts: 9
                        • Joined: 10/19/2010
                        • Location: Champaign, IL
                        Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Tue, 10/19/10 12:02 PM (permalink)
                        When I had a coffee shop, we had an espresso machine in our cupping/training room that we mounted on a rolling cabinet with a grey water tank and a 5gal Culligan water jug with a Flojet.  (We wanted the machine to be capable of being used for catering- although I never used it that way.)
                         
                        If you did something like that, maybe you could insulate the cabinet to keep the water temp above freezing.  (I assume you aren't going to store the trailer outside as I couldn't imagine the damage that would be done to the espresso machine's waterlines/boiler/grouphead if that water froze.  No way would I risk leaving ANY water in the machine if it will be outside)
                         
                        I think I replaced the $100 Flowjet about once a year, as those plastic pumps aren't too spectacular in construction.
                         
                        Can you post pictures of your airstream? (there is a photo section in this forum)  It sounds amazing!
                         
                        #12
                          Chicago1222

                          • Total Posts: 8
                          • Joined: 10/11/2010
                          • Location: Chicago, IL
                          Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Thu, 10/20/11 10:18 PM (permalink)
                          Hey guys,
                           
                          We got up and running in mid June!  We're still figuring out how we'll be able to make the long haul through Chicago's tough winter.  Let us know any advice.  
                           
                          We're located on North Avenue, by Kedzie,  Humboldt Park, Chicago  Take a look:  www.isladecafe.com  or find us on facebook: IslaDeCafe
                          Menu is posted on both pages.
                           
                          #13
                            Foodbme

                            • Total Posts: 9566
                            • Joined: 9/1/2006
                            • Location: Gilbert, AZ
                            Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Fri, 10/21/11 1:25 AM (permalink)
                            I can't imagine someone stopping to buy something outdoors in the middle of a Chicago Winter. They'll go into a restaurant just to get out of the cold. You could be open but I'd be surprised if you sell much.
                            I'd wait until Spring.
                             
                            #14
                              JoeShuman

                              • Total Posts: 1
                              • Joined: 10/21/2011
                              • Location: Carlisle , PA
                              Re:Running a Mobile Shop in WINTER MONTHS??? Fri, 10/21/11 2:36 PM (permalink)
                              Chicago1222, I lived in Alaska for one summer and they have little Coffee huts that you speak of and they are open year round. They are not mobile like yours, but it is a big business up there and on the West Coast. They insulate their huts and have space heaters. Design your Airstream to have closing windows to keep  the heat in. I know its simple but it really helps. You should also do some research to look for locations that you can move to threw out the day to keep high customer flow.  
                               

                              Joe Shuman 
                              MenuDrive







                              <message edited by JoeShuman on Fri, 10/21/11 3:36 PM>
                               
                              #15
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