Airstream food trailer planned for Franklin St.

Board endorses plan but member says it doesn’t fit in ‘beautiful downtown Port’
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The concept 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 recommended for approval Tuesday by the city’s Design Review Board.

But not all the board members were enthused about the idea, with Marc Eernisse, an adviser to the panel, saying he does not believe it fits with the city’s historic downtown.

“An Airstream trailer in beautiful downtown Port Washington doesn’t appeal to me,” Eernisse said.  “I don’t think it fits with our concept of downtown.”

Eernisse noted the trailer would be one of the first things that people traveling down St. Mary’s Hill would see in downtown.

Noting the 40-by-60-foot lot at the southwest corner of Franklin and Pier streets where Nick and Melissa Suddendorf want to park the trailer adjoins a building that the couple also plans to buy, Eernisse asked, “Why wouldn’t you use that to serve food out of instead of out of the trailer?”

The Suddendorfs want to buy the grassy space and the adjoining building at 309 N. Franklin St., which houses Eye.Q Optical, and create a food and beverage venue on the green space.

The couple have an option to purchase the properties, Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

They would landscape the green space on the corner and extend utilities to the site, add picnic tables, a fire pit, seating and decorative lighting and park the Airstream trailer on a concrete pad.

A large tree on the lot would be retained, the couple said.

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, the Suddendorfs said.

They would then remove the trailer from the site for the winter.

“We really wanted to do something cool with that corner,” Nick Suddendorf said.

Melissa Suddendorf said she had hoped to incorporate ice cream into her candy shop, CoCa LeNa, but there were too many issues with the space. She said the couple had looked into buying the building the candy shop was in but that wasn’t happening so they decided to look elsewhere.

She’s now in the process of moving the candy shop into Pear and Simple, she said.

“We really want to make downtown Port Washington someplace families want to engage,” she said. “We want something fun. This would be a fun destination for kids.”

They do have some fun ideas for the lot in the wintertime, she added.

Board member Melissa Didier said the venue would be an attraction for families.

“To me, this is a kid’s version of a beer garden,” she said. “This is a lot more attractive than a lot of food trucks you see.

“I think the aesthetics of Airstreams is widely accepted.”

Melissa Suddendorf agreed, saying, “The Airstream is just really nostalgic.”

She noted that there are similar operations housed in unusual spaces all around the country.

Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, the board chairman, said he had heard concerns similar to Eernisse’s since the proposal had been forwarded to the city, summing it up as “a mobile point of sale in a bricks-and-mortar downtown. 

“I see it as an attraction in downtown.”

But, Vanden Noven said, he would like to see the couple retain as much of the grass on the site as they can. Much of the property would be covered with gravel or pavement, under the proposal.

“There’s really no grass in downtown,” Vanden Noven said. “It’s our only grass downtown.”

Ald. Mike Gasper questioned whether the city would be limiting the development potential of the property, which was home to a music store until the 1970s, if it approved the project.

“If we allow this and it’s successful, does that mean we never get a building there?” he asked. “I’d rather have a building there.

“If it leads to them putting a building on it someday, that would be good.”

Mayor Marty Becker commended the concept, saying, “To think outside the box like they are is great.”

The concept plan will be considered by the Plan Commission when it meets on Thursday, June 20. 

A conditional use plan for the property will have to be approved by the commission and the Common Council before the venue is allowed, Harris said.

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