Mobile vending sites should be leased for season, not weekly

"It appears that our councillors and mayor don’t understand entrepreneurs with a dream"

Dear Editor,

I have been the general manager of the Wild Rapids Water Park for 10 years, and I have been following the Pilot Mobile Vending Project issue. Last week at our management team meeting, we decided that it would be appropriate for me to respond to your article in the March 26 publication.

First of all, we would mention that the businesses objecting to the pilot project feel that they have lost this battle. In fact, they have won! Sadly, it appears that our councillors and mayor don’t understand entrepreneurs with a dream or the risks that they are prepared to take to obtain that dream.

The reality is that the moment that council raised the fees, the pilot project died. Anyone that knows the seasonal concession business will know what they need to gross in order to pay costs. This in the industry is known as “the nut I have to crack.” So imagine how many hot dogs or ice cream bars you have to sell to pay $300 or $1,000 a week after a food and staff cost of 50 per cent.

This does not include anything for depreciation, amortization or replacement of your equipment before making a profit. The fact is that it’s costly to set up any mobile concession, not to mention the strict Alberta Health regulations that must be adhered to.

However, here is the real kicker and uncontrollable risk in beautiful Sylvan Lake: you pay your fee for a week, and for some unknown reason, you have three days of rain, but you don’t get a refund. This is a little like putting salt in the wound. I’m sure that you realize that, operating Wild Rapids, we know exactly what that is like, since we don’t get a tax refund if no one shows up on rainy days.

The fair win-win decision should have been that the locations should have been leased for the season, not weekly, and sales reported and a percentage paid weekly. This is what we do at the Water Park with our concessions, which are very easy to control and administer. Who wants a weekly revolving door anyhow? Yes it should be a percentage rent, since we are in this together and should share the weather risk. We charge 30 per cent and include everything to the operator, including all the equipment since we want them to be successful.

As for locations, we think that the more the merrier since currently the tourists who visit are not being serviced properly and in fact have little choice — for families — on Lakeshore Drive. Then we note that the Centennial Park location has been deleted from the potential vendor location list — when in fact that is where we should have two or three to service our visitors!

We would love to have several on our parking lot since, in our opinion, they would complement our concessions. The fact is that mobile vending will not hurt anyone’s business if they give good service and look after the client and avoid focusing on exclusivity — which is what competition does.

This would be good for everyone, including the Town. For two months a year we need an upbeat fair ground atmosphere with people walking up and down Lakeshore selling balloons, ice cream or whatever. That would certainly bring in more people and everyone will be happy. If you have been to the Calgary Airport or any major shopping centre lately, you will notice that kiosks are all situated all over, and they don’t interfere with anyone that pays “real rent or taxes.” As a matter of fact, they help subsidize those costs.

We are entrepreneurs. We support the risk takers unconditionally, and believe in those who have a dream — no matter how small. We also abhor people who favour exclusivity, favouritism and monopolies in order to maintain self-preservation.

Everyone has a given right to try to be successful — not just the exclusive few.

Charlie Everest,

Sylvan Lake