Verhasselt: Street vendors overlooked in LANE4 development plan


Courtesy photo: Thinkstock

Little information about LANE4’s plans has been shared with Campustown vendors.

Heath Verhasselt

The proposed Campustown development plan has been the subject of some controversy over the last month or so. Opinions have been heard by the students, LANE4, Iowa State, a few small business owners and, on Feb. 28, the Ames City Council. There is however, one group of business owners that have been overlooked in this debacle: the street vendors. Where do they fit in? I sat down with local entrepreneur Jayson Hansen, founder and co-owner of Hungry4Huh, a “Korean-Fast food Fusion” stand on Welch Avenue. Hungry4Huh is a rather new business to the Ames area. They’ve been in business since September, employ five and are open Wednesday through Saturday nights. I asked him if he’d heard about the proposed LANE4 Plans for Campustown.

“I have only heard about LANE4 from the article that you had presented me. There was no major public awareness that I have come across describing the project renovations that they had proposed with the city of Ames, to my knowledge. I’ve been approached by someone in the beginning asking to see our city licenses were in place, but they did not reveal if they worked for LANE4.”

Have you heard from any of the other vendors so far on this issue?

“I’ve not heard much about the issue, however I plan to speak with the current owner of Project 20/20 (Philip) about if and how it affects his business. Bars and clubs in Campustown have already had a lot of scrutiny about serving to minors, and now things may become worse for them, along with so-called “lower class” businesses such as tattoo parlors (as LANE4 has analyzed and described as a ‘Campustown weakness’ in their market research summary report that I came across whilst doing some of my own research about their renovation talks with the city). College students are attracted to these kinds of businesses. Do you see a tattoo parlor arrangement in Main Street, Ames? I don’t think so, because they have a different crowd of customer hanging around the area. It’s always about the customer, never about a company’s own perspective.”

Do you feel that you’ve been represented much — if at all — on this renovation’s plans?

“I’ve not been given the details of the project other than from the article and doing my own research, seeing a report made by the city of Ames including a market analysis research summary conducted by LANE4 themselves. I was a little upset about the way LANE4 had envisioned their “reconstruction” of Campustown, because it seems they are wanting to try to change the Campustown area to what they feel is what a campus town should be, rather than what the general customer wishes it to be. I say leave it up to the customer market; market forces will decide if a business should or shouldn’t be in Campustown.”

What are your plans for if you have to leave your current location? (By either the owner of the building selling, or eminent domain)?

“I don’t really plan on leaving our place of establishment, unless our customers don’t want us there. You can bet that I will stand my ground and defend our position even if it means appearing before courts or having endless meetings with City Hall. I believe small business is the heart to which why capitalism works and how it can thrive, and I feel that if the city pushes to eliminate such entities from existence to give way to larger, more powerful corporate giants and chains, franchises … I will have lost faith in the democracy for which [the] United States resides with … “

It’s Campustown that allows businesses like this to thrive. Jayson said he plans on opening four new locations in Iowa City, Des Moines, Chicago and Champaign, Ill.  a lot of this is to do with the business and support of the students and the Ames community. It’s small businesses like these that are good not only for the Ames community but for the country in general. Not listening to them and forcing them to do the bidding of large businesses with deep pockets and a large motive for profit is not the answer to anything. We bring you this interview in its entirety because we at the Iowa State Daily believe the solution to our problems starts right here, in Ames. Together we can prove that working together on issues will help everyone prosper.