Lisa Marie Bucci runs Salon Bucci, a movie-set-themed hair salon cart, in the Food Pavilion near Southeast 50th and Division. Finding her next meal is never a problem, she says. "I'm just waiting for a massage trailer to move in next door to me."
// Photo by Alexandra Shyshkina
The city requires that non-food cart owners follow standard procedure when setting up their businesses: They must register, attain vending permits, pay city and county business license and income taxes, and follow zoning and building codes. But since they don’t have to pass health inspections like their counterparts in the food industry, no government bureau keeps watch over them — or has an idea how many exist.
Loren Guerriero, community outreach coordinator at Mercy Corps Northwest, says the market has yet to determine whether the cart model is viable for non-food enterprises.
“A lot of these new non-food carts have yet to be tested,” he says. “The majority of businesses fail within the first three years, and many of these carts started in the last three years.”
Owners cite the desire to stand out in a market saturated by the same types of businesses as a primary reason for going mobile.
“I wanted a hook,” says stylist Robin Carlisle, who opened the Holiday Hair Studio salon last March in a pink and silver Kenskill trailer on Southeast 28th. “I thought if you can do food in a cart, you can do hair in a cart.”
Her scheme worked: the novelty of the hair-in-a-cart idea attracted the attention of publications ranging from the Portland Mercury to New York magazine to the Apartment Therapy design blog, and within eight months, she’d amassed 200 regular clients — a feat that would have otherwise taken four to five years.
In February, Carlisle moved into a brick-and-mortar salon half a block from her former parking spot. “Having the cart first was the only way I would ever be able to have a full-on salon like I have now,” she says.