After presenting a draft of a policy for discussion, which opened more questions than answers, selectmen have decided to appoint a committee to review the issue and make recommendations.
At Town Meeting, voters approved an article that allows selectmen to impose additional restrictions on mobile food vendors. Proponents said it would protect local businesses from encroaching mobile businesses, but opponents said it would create unnecessary obstacles for mobile vendors who already comply with current laws.
Mostly seen in big cities in the past, mobile merchandising has become a trend in suburban communities as well. And that has caused concern among traditional brick-and-mortar businesses that see what they perceive as a threat to their livelihood parked outside their doors.
Emotions ran high at the meeting on both sides.
"We employ 15 people," Kathy Santoro, owner of Good day Cafe, said. "If it's a Thursday afternoon, and I have to make that big deposit to cover payroll, and I walk outside and there's a food truck in front, that's emotional."
Her husband John also spoke, calling for a buffer zone to protect tax-paying local businesses from loss of business to a competing mobile vendor. And that seemed to be one thing brick-and-mortar advocates stressed the most.
"I don't want a pizza truck for an hour in front of Terry Holland's shop," Selectman Tracy Watson said "I'm a founder of the Merchants Association, and I'll stand for them. They're paying rent and contributing to the community in far more ways than mobile food vendors."
Mike Laorenza, vice president of the North Andover Merchants Association, echoed that sentiment even louder.
"I can tell you, as a representative of the Merchants Association, I will support our brick-and-mortars 100 percent," Laorenza said. "Whenever anybody needs anything in North Andover, they come to the Merchants of the town. I don't see ice cream trucks sweeping up sidewalks the way I see merchants taling care of their property."
Nadine Levin owns Pipe Dream Cupcakes, and her business is both local and mobile. She makes her cupcakes at home and sells them out of a vehicle (that bright pink cupcake van you see around town).
The Town Meeting article sought to require mobile food vendors to have a "common victualler" license -- a special permit to sell food locally, but Levin said that's easier said than done.
"We've been told we're not eligible for common victualler license because i'm not brick-and-mortar," she said. As someone who will be directly impacted by any new regulation on mobile vendors, she urged a balanced approach.
"We cant speak for any other food trucks, but our intention is not to pull up in front of a competing business, stay there from 7 a.m. to 7 at night, 5 days a week," Nadine's husband Marc said. "As 14-year residents in the town with kids in the schools, it's important to us that we create that balance."
But if Pipe Dream Cupcakes parks in front of a bakery during a high-traffic time for that bakery, that would likely impact that bakery's profits.
Rebecca D'Entremont of North Andover, however, said that is left for the market to decide.
"If I were to park an ice cream in front of Mad Maggie's, I'm a fool," D'Entremont said. "But it's my choice."
"We have a burrito truck that currently... is left on Flagship Drive unattended overnight, night after night, right in front of Jimmy Culpeppers restaurant," Watson said in emphasizing a need to create some set policy regarding mobile vendors.
She was talking about Bad Boy Burrito, a North Andover-based mobile burrito vendor. Representatives of Bad Boy Burrito were at the meeting but did not speak.
"Food trucks.... they're trendy, everybody digs them, they're fun," Watson continued. "But the reality is, moving forward how will this impact our brick and mortar businesses?"
Terry Holland owns Stachey's Pizza and spoke at the meeting in support of regulating mobile vendors. He also stressed, however, that he wants all good business owners to succeed, both brick-and-mortar and mobil, but that something needed to be done about people wanting to take business from local businesses.
"We don't make rules for good people," Holland said.
So the Board of Selectmen will appoint a committee to help shape a new policy. There will be seven members, including a selectman and a member of Community Development Director Curt Bellavance's staff.
If you would like to be on the committee, you can apply on the town's website.
What are your thoughts? Should mobile vendors be regulated as to where they can operate their businesses? Should they be barred from parking near similar brick-and-mortar businesses? Or should the market be free, unrestricted and open to all? Discuss in the comments below.