BY BRANDON DOYLE & KERRY TKACIK
APR. 9, 2012
Ithaca, N.Y. – For 16 years Lou Cassaniti has sold hot dogs on the Commons of Ithaca, New York, a street vending veteran in his own right.
Cassaniti works by his own clock, judging the weather and the crowd to decide when he’ll call it a day. His right to operate a mobile vending cart, however, is registered and regulated by the city of Ithaca.
“I have a seven page contract with the City of Ithaca,” Cassaniti said. “I have a $3 million liability policy so the city can’t get sued. I have seven permits; health department, fire department, etc. I got them all. This is a regulated business.”
Cassaniti is one of a handful of street vendors who occupy the Commons and their respective niches in the sale of different foods for the majority of the year.
The seasons and festivals of Ithaca decide how much revenue Cassaniti’s business and others will generate. With spring heating up the city and bringing in tourists as well as families for graduation at Ithaca’s two universities, Cassaniti expects to see business pick up as it does every spring on the Commons.
“The warmer it gets the more [business],” he said. “In the summer time it’s tourists from all over the world. It’s graduation next month. A whole week at Ithaca College, a whole week at Cornell. That’s a lot of people.”
Cassaniti welcomes the crowds the festivals draw in as well as the 20 to 30 other vendors who set up shop. He does not fear competition drawing away from his own business; rather he encourages new items and services to be offered by his neighboring vendors.
“What’d I’d like to see is someone do smoothies and drinks in the summer time when it’s warm,” he said. “Nobody’s done it yet.”