Moveable Feast: Food trucks bring color, cuisine to Manchester

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Food trucks have been around for ages - from the iconic Oscar Meyer Weinermobile to the kid loving ice cream truck that played a catchy jingle as it cruised through neighborhoods. They are quick, convenient and quite popular.

So why wouldn't Manchester want to get in on the action?

"I've seen some increase in interest," Manchester Town Manager John O'Keefe said in regards to vending licenses.

Currently, there are five classes of vending licenses in Manchester: vending operations with a total footprint up to 100 square feet, vending operations with a total footprint up to 200 square feet, farmers' markets, weekend festivals, and temporary vendors up to seven days per year with no more than three days in a row in the same location.

The approval of the Manchester Select Board is required to obtain any of the first four classes of vending licenses. The Town Manager issues the temporary licenses.

While food trucks, trailers and carts are not new in Manchester - take Nancy Lenhardt of Nan Z's hotdog cart located on Main Street - they are not in abundance.

Lenhardt has been in business since 1984, and according to the slogan on the back of her T-shirt, she still has the "hottest buns in town."

"I've been here a long time. That says a lot about the food," Lenhardt said.

Lenhardt has an annual vending license that allows her to sell hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and sausages covered in mouth-watering toppings year-round. But don't bother looking for Nan Z's hot buns from January through March — she takes three months off every year so she can enjoy some skiing.

Hound Dogs is another food truck fixture in Manchester. Owner Neil Shulman has been selling hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, Philly cheesesteaks and fries since 2001. His fire engine red trailer, decorated with yellow paw prints, is located in the parking lot on Equinox Terrace across from Shaw's.

Shulman is open year-round in Manchester and during lunch hour, regardless of the weather, it is not uncommon to see his parking lot full of trucks, SUV's and minivans.

Shulman also takes his Hound Dogs trailer to local festivals and private parties.

"Those are my favorite," Shulman says referring to the private parties.

While we all love our hotdogs and sausage, which is evident by the success of Nan Z's and Hound Dogs, Vermont food truck owners are beginning to offer a more diverse food and beverage menu in the Manchester area and at the local festivals and weekend events.

"The community wants more variety," O'Keefe said.

And while coffee and pastries may not be exotic they are always a welcomed addition to any day or any social gathering.

Better Buzz, a vibrant pink truck with a cartoon bee drinking a hot beverage on the side, is a mobile espresso bar that has been making the rounds in the Northshire region.

Hermann serves more than just coffee drinks. She also offers donuts, pastries and smoothies — all served with a smile.

Owner Amy Hermann, says she has a six-month window in which to work, so she makes sure to squeeze every day out of her limited time.

Hermann has no desire to set up her food truck in any one location so she moves about the area: Equinox Terrace in Manchester, J.K. Adams in Dorset — where she often shares the parking lot with Mio Mobile, a food truck that makes pizza — and at Orvis events at their flagship store in Manchester Village.

Better Buzz also goes to fairs and weekend festivals where you can see the pink truck alongside an airstream bar, a taco stand, a gelato cart, a french fry trailer, or a woodfire pizza trailer.

While there is room for more food vendors in Manchester and a desire for a greater variety of food trucks — Indian, Vietnamese, Moroccan perhaps - the existing vendors are still satisfying our want for tasty food and drink.

Food trucks are "adding street vibrance," O'Keefe says.

Whether that's a literal street or a figurative street it doesn't matter - the more food trucks the merrier. And the more diverse the better.

Anne Archer is a frequent Journal contributor focusing on business.

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