Airstream food trailer plan sparks controversy

Split Port Plan Commission grants conceptual OK for eatery seen as both creative and a poor fit for downtown

A PROPOSAL TO place an Airstream trailer in a small grassy area at the corner of Franklin and Pier streets, shown here looking southeast from Pier Street, has proven to be controversial. The Airstream, a trailer much like the one in the photo at left, would serve ice cream and snacks. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The idea of parking an Airstream trailer on a grassy lot on Franklin Street in downtown Port Washington and serving ice cream and other seasonal treats from it was narrowly approved by the Plan Commission last week.

The commission approved the concept plan submitted by Nick and Melissa Suddendorf by a 3-2 vote. Voting to approve the plan were commission members Brenda Fritsch, Ron Voigt and Eric Ryer, while Mayor Marty Becker and Ald. Paul Neumyer voted against it.

Neumyer said he does not like the idea of having a trailer of any sort parked downtown.

“I like the concept. I’m not convinced of the Airstream trailer,” he said, adding he would oppose any trailer, not just the Airstream.

Becker said he and other officials have gotten negative comments about the proposal.

“I think it’s a good idea. I don’t like where it’s at,” he said.

He also noted that while brick-and-mortar stores downtown pay a tax based on their property assessment to support the Business Improvement District, the trailer isn’t an improvement to the property and thus wouldn’t pay that tax.

“Is that fair?” he asked. “Brick-and-mortar stores have all these expenses.”

But other commission members embraced the idea, saying it would bring a needed amenity to downtown.

“It needs to be downtown. That’s where the people are,” Voigt said. “Here we can now bring in a little more to the (downtown) mixture. To me it sounds like a smart thing to be doing.”

Fritsch said that while the concept of an Airstream as a shop is new to Port, it is something that is accepted throughout the country.

“This is a very popular concept,” she said. “I can see this being a great place for families. There really isn’t a place like that around.”

Nick Suddendorf said the couple has been looking at the lot at the corner of Franklin and Pier streets for a number of years, noting that it is across from the building that houses Pear and Simple, which they own.

They have an option to buy the lot and the adjoining building at 309 N. Franklin St., which houses Eye.Q Optical.

“Our idea is to really dress up that corner,” he said. They would add a firepit and seating, string bistro lights across the dining area and add a concrete driveway from the back of the lot to the Airstream.

“We really feel the Airstream is going to be cool there,” Nick Suddendorf said. “It’s going to be tucked back in there.”

The trailer would be partially obscured from traffic coming down St. Mary’s Hill by a large tree on the north side of the lot that will remain, he said. 

The couple has been heartened by the positive response they’ve heard since Ozaukee Press first publicized their plans, he added.

The Airstream trailer — a classic travel trailer with a distinctive rounded, polished aluminium exterior — would be open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, then on weekends until it’s too cold, Melissa Suddendorf said. It would then be moved from the site.

The menu would be largely ice cream and snacks, the couple said. 

During the Christmas season, they could sell candy from it, Nick Suddendorf said.

“We really haven’t developed it (those plans) yet,” he said.

Sewer, water and electrical service would be extended to the site, he added.

Ryer asked if the couple had considered creating a restaurant in the adjoining building and using the trailer as an extension of the business.

That might be something they would consider in the future, Nick Suddendorf said, noting the current tenant has several years remaining on his lease.

The commission’s concept approval isn’t the final step in the process. The Suddendorfs still need to obtain a conditional use permit for the property, something that would need to be approved by the Plan Commission and the Common Council, before the Airstream proposal becomes a reality, Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

  Ryer suggested that when the couple comes back for the permit, they bring a two-part plan, one with the trailer and the other with a small building.

“We can explore that,” Nick Suddendorf said.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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