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Food truck wars

posted by Tim Carmody   Jun 13, 2016

Mister Softee used to dominate ice cream sales on Manhattan’s streets. Now Midtown is run by a splinter group called New York Ice Cream, former Softee franchisees (for a little while the trucks read “Master Softee”) who cut out the overhead but kept their corners.

The New York Times ran a story about the ice cream turf wars in late May:

“Let me tell you about this business,” Adam Vega, a thickly muscled, heavily tattooed Mister Softee man who works the upper reaches of the Upper East Side and East Harlem, said on Wednesday. “Every truck has a bat inside.”

Mr. Vega, 41, said that if he comes across a rival on his route, “I jump out and say, ‘Listen young man, this is my route, you gotta get out of there.’”

The same day that story was printed, a New York Ice Cream driver was arrested for attacking a pretzel vendor in Midtown with a baseball bat.

This week, Crain’s New York had a deep-dive into the nitty-gritty of NYC food carts, from managing licenses and fees, dealing with wholesalers, appealing tickets, and paying taxes. The wholesalers run out of Hell’s Kitchen; the expediters and permit brokers are in Astoria.

A thousand and one systems, legal, quasi-legal, and extra-legal, overlapping each other like nervous and circulatory networks in a body. All of the unseen navigation that makes a city run.