Saturday, January 28, 2023

Shirt Factory’s Food Truck fate still awaits price setting by City

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Shirt Factory owner Eric Unkauf told The Chronicle that the future of the Food Truck Corral and other events remains up in the air as he awaits a new permit fee structure from the City of Glens Falls.

Through 2022, Mr. Unkauf had an agreement to pay the city $1,000 yearly for a permit to run his food truck events.

Mayor Bill Collins told The Chronicle last week that the city informed Mr. Unkauf that “if we charged those vendors a six month fee, [it] would be $15,000,” later revised up to $17,000.

Mayor Collins said that the city told Mr. Unkauf they were not asking for that amount but are trying to gather information on number of events and vendors.

“We haven’t asked for money from any of them yet,” said the mayor. “We’re asking how we can work together to minimize the overhead of the city and maximize these events in a way that benefits everyone.”

Mr. Unkauf said he’s received no new price from the city as of Tuesday. That uncertainty, he said, has made it impossible to send applications to food vendors.

“These guys aren’t gonna stick around forever,. At some point…they’ll look for other stuff to put in their calendar.”

Mr. Unkauf said significant increases in the city’s fees would make it difficult to retain smaller “ethnic food” vendors.

He said that while some vendors drive food trucks, others drive distances to serve food under tents, on thin margins.

“Some of these guys wake up at like four in the morning to start prepping food for the day, and they’ll come out from like” 1 to 1.5 hours away, he said.

They’ll bring their food, set up a tent, serve it, break it down, then return home.

“It’s like a 20 hour day for probably two people, so figure that out — 40 hours…And they gotta buy all the food to boot. What are they actually making at the end of the day? I’d hazard a guess that on a lot of days, they’re not even getting minimum wage,” he said.

Mr. Unkauf said after talking to his vendors, truck operators may begrudgingly pay higher fees, but “the vast majority of the people in the tents basically said no, we couldn’t do that.”

“You lose those guys, those small ethnic food booths there, and it would radically change the whole feeling of the event,” Mr. Unkauf said. If that happens, “do I bother to do it?” he asked.

Mr. Unkauf said the City’s talking in terms of $17,000 is “just an absurd amount of money.”

He labels it a “stealth tax” that will ultimately be passed down to event visitors with increased food prices, regardless.

Mr. Unkauf suggested Glens Falls send staff to sell entry tickets at the events, “and we can let people know what it’s for — to come on the property and go to the event. At least that way, it’s up-front and honest about what’s going on.”

Mayor Collins told The Chronicle last week that he wants to help the Shirt Factory’s events grow.

“Eric’s events are actually very low on city on city resources, meaning we do not close down the streets,” Mayor Collins said. “So we’re not spending a lot of money, and it is a huge benefit for the neighborhood.”

Mr. Unkauf calls the Shirt Factory events a boon to Glens Falls. “There’s a lot of goodwill, there’s a lot of community building, and there’s indirect economic development stuff that happens as a result.” He said frequently, “people will come to the city on a Thursday night to go to our event. And they’ve never been to Glens Falls, or they haven’t been in a long time.”

He said those people will return on the weekend, “and they don’t just check out the shirt factory, they’re going downtown.”

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