Street food vendors aren’t welcome everywhere in Western North Carolina, but Andy and Pamela Fife haven’t found that to be true in Franklin. They are now setup in this Macon County town as the only fulltime mobile food vendors west of Asheville.
The couple — Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. — parks an upscale food-service trailer in a vacant lot along East Main Street. When they open the windows on A&P Roadside Eats, Macon County residents know that it’s time to stop by for the couple’s hamburgers, steak and cheese hoagies, Italian sausage and more.
The Fifes have created quite a following at their mobile food unit since opening last June. The couple also delivers food to the work-bound and hungry in town, taking phone orders directly at A&P Roadside Eats.
“We love them being here,” said David Campbell of Franklin as he stopped by A&P Roadside Eats for lunch one day last week.
“It’s close to work, and they serve the best corndogs in town,” Campbell’s wife, Sabrina, added. “We come almost everyday.”
The Fifes are true entrepreneurs, a couple of hardworking people who spotted an opportunity and moved into an available and open business niche. They started A&P Roadside Eats when the owner of a business Andy Fife was working at died, and that business was forced to shutdown.
“We do miss that regular paycheck,” Fife said.
But, they are enjoying meeting a regular stream of Macon County residents, some dating back as first-time customers to when the Fifes were setting up a booth at Pickin’ on the Square in Franklin. In addition to working that street festival, the couple also worked — and still does — events in Macon County such as gem shows and trail days.
Pamela and Andy are halfbacks, former residents of Naples, Fla. Andy is originally from Virginia, Pamela from Ohio. They live in Macon County fulltime.
“We got tired of hurricanes,” Pamela said.
Working a mobile food unit such as A&P Roadside Eats means meeting certain state and local regulations. The couple has a standard business license from the town of Franklin. They also, per health department requirements, have an association with an area restaurant, where they go for cleanup. They have a state license that allows them to setup anywhere in North Carolina.
Food on wheels
Mobile food vendors are part of a burgeoning national trend that has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Proponents cite street food as an inexpensive and low-risk outlet for budding entrepreneurs, and point to culinary benefits to American consumers who can sample a variety of ethnic and regional foods that might not be available otherwise.
Opponents of food trucks usually are established restaurateurs, who accuse mobile food vendors of riding on their business backs minus the high overhead of maintaining regular businesses.
The food truck issue, unlike in Franklin, has been openly contentious elsewhere in WNC. Waynesville bans the mobile units from the Downtown Waynesville District, though will allow them in certain areas of town if licensing requirements are met. Asheville restaurateurs and mobile unit proponents argued for months last year until city leaders finally passed an ordinance that lifted a 25-year ban. Several food trucks can now set up together in a mobile food court on Coxe Avenue in Asheville.