Amy Gaskill’s business is rolling along. Literally. Treeroot Espresso is one of the community’s numerous mobile businesses, and it’s here—and then there—to serve you.
As a mobile business, Gaskill’s is governed by a complicated set of rules and regulations. For one thing, she is prohibited from street parking. Anywhere she parks, she needs to get permission from the owners of the spot. She is forbidden from drawing additional traffic to the site—she can only cater to the traffic that’s already there—which means that she can’t post sandwich boards out on major roads to pull in more customers and, in fact, her signage can’t even be visible from the street.
There are consequences to not following the rules, Gaskill explained. If she increases traffic by even 5 percent, she has to undergo a set review plan, which would cost her somewhere between $6,000 and $8,000, a hefty sum for a small business.
I asked her about the new regulations in Seattle for mobile businesses, allowing them to set up on city streets (see http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politicsnorthwest/2015652339_seattle_council_approves_food-.html). Gaskill wasn’t aware of how the Seattle City Council ruling had turned out and didn’t seem to feel it had much to do with her here on Bainbridge.
Currently, Treeroot parks at the pool in late mornings after catering to the earlier morning crowd at Bangor. Gaskill also works special events and at an industrial park on the Island. Her schedule, which changes seasonally, is posted on her website treerootespresso.com. She says she could do more business if properties were interested in hosting her truck in their parking areas.
That truck has been Gaskill’s for just one year. But it’s been a working truck since 1973, and the oldster only gets 10 mpg. Over the years it’s gone through many changes and is now equipped with WiFi, a mobile generator, a fridge, a microwave, a sink, and lots of kitchen gadgets.
I asked her if it is a good living yet. She said, rather quickly, “No.” But she added that she’s proud she made it through the first year, a milestone for any business.
She has noticed a slight dropoff in business over the last two months. She theorizes that it’s because of government shutdowns and furloughs. “I’m seeing the same customers,” she said, “but they’re spending less.”
At that moment, Abby Peterson, a swimming teacher, walked up and happily announced, “I wanted food but I didn’t want to have to go far to get it and then I remembered, hey, the truck is here!” Gaskill got her fueled up and sent her on her way.
She tries to carry as many products from local vendors as she can. To name just a few, she carries products from My Kids’ Cookies, Bainbridge Bakers, and a Bainbridge Island coffee organic roaster—Fog Woman Coffee—which supports Cafe Femenino, a cooperative of coffee farmers in Peru.
Gaskill tries to keep up with what some of her colleagues in Seattle are doing, and when she gets a call for a Seattle gig, she tries to refer the work to people she knows across the water. I wondered why. She explained, “I stay pretty busy in Kitsap.” And her schedule shows it. This weekend she worked the Port Ludlow Festival by the Bay. And next week she’s got the ASPCA’s $100,000 Challenge kickoff as well as her regularly scheduled gigs. As Gaskill puts it in her slogan, “We are where you’re going.”
Photos by Sarah Lane.