The Patron of Curbside Cuisine
Sometimes desperation is the real mother of invention. Roger Goldingay '73 is proof.
In 2007, he purchased a 10,000- square-foot lot on a forlorn corner of North Mississippi and Skidmore in Portland, Oregon, intending to make some money by making it a better place. He planned to raze the dilapidated 19th-century building on the property and in its place, construct a multistory condominium with commercial space on the ground floor. Then the economy nosedived.
Unable to secure financing for his project, Goldingay found himself facing a serious cash-flow problem: he still had to make payments on the property, but it produced no income. He tried to sell it, but after a year on the market, there were no buyers. “I was sweating it,” he says. “I had to come up with something. I only had so much time before the checks started bouncing.”
What he conceived was a novel way to support Portland's lively food cart scene, which has been credited with helping many people weather the recession and nourishing the city with high-quality, low-priced chow. He succeeded in not only pushing through his own financial ordeal, but also catalyzing a revitalization of the neighborhood by turning a forsaken address into a community gathering place and small-business incubator.
As the mastermind behind Mississippi Marketplace, one of the city's most touted developments over the last few years, Goldingay is now hailed as Portland's “food-pod pioneer.” He spotted an opportunity to provide cart owners with the kind of amenities they weren't getting elsewhere: electricity, water, bathroom access, customer seating and shelter from the rain. And he converted his property into an urban harbor for a fleet of entrepreneurs, breaking new ground in the city's blossoming street-food landscape.
The Mississippi Marketplace opened for business in 2009 with 10 vendors. Three have since been rated among the city's top-ten food carts, including Garden State, which is run by another Greener, Kevin Sandri '92, and bills itself as the purveyor of “Italian street food from the Willamette Valley.” All are stationed around Prost!, a neighborhood pub occupying the remodeled old building once slated to be demolished.
Customers find a veritable smorgasbord at Goldingay's cart lot: vegetarian curry and sushi, gourmet sandwiches, sopaipillas, cupcakes. Vendors use recyclable serving containers and local food sources (whenever possible), recycle trash, and compost or donate leftovers to area food banks.
Today, the Mississippi Marketplace is a food lovers' hotspot. Goldingay says one its chief benefits is social. “We have grandparents bringing grandkids, families, the pierced and the tattooed, bikers, pedestrians—a wide range of humanity comes to this formerly abandoned lot. They have a safe place to congregate. It's changed 180 degrees from being a crack-dealing corner.”
With that achieved, Goldingay has shifted into the next gear of his cart-and-community-development journey. In May, his new “super pod”—Cartlandia—began operations along a once-neglected stretch of southeast Portland's Springwater Corridor bike trail. The one-acre, “bike-centric” site will host 35 carts and offer bicycle repairs, tire pumping and gear—not to mention good eats on the fly.