At Cartlandia, Food Carts Rush in Where Used Car Salesmen Once Reigned

Roger Goldingay standing by one of the most successful carts at Cartlandia, The Rock House Grill. Doug Beghtel/The Oregonian

By Michael Russell | The Oregonian

Roger Goldingay standing by one of the most successful carts at Cartlandia, The Rock House Grill. Doug Beghtel/The Oregonian

When Roger Goldingay opened his Mississippi Marketplace food cart pod in 2009, it wasn’t the first. Food trucks had already rolled onto several parking lots downtown. But Goldingay’s was the first pod built with power and water outlets and other amenities specifically for food carts.

Pods are a uniquely Portland phenomenon, though delegates have traveled from other cities to figure out how they work. Goldingay says his design has been imitated at other pods throughout the city.

“After we opened Mississippi, there were literally dozens of people coming and sniffing around the lot, wanting to sit down and have a cup of coffee with me and pick my brain,” he says.

Goldingay is expanding the pod concept even further with his Cartlandia, a “bike-centric food cart super pod” which held its grand opening last weekend. Cartlandia, which has space for more than 30 carts, unofficially opened two months ago on a stretch of Southeast 82nd Avenue better known for used car lots, Chinese food and crime. Goldingay has so far attracted 14 carts selling Hawaiian shave ice, Philadelphia cheese steaks, coffee, tacos, bicycle repairs and more.

As cars motored by the lot Tuesday, a dozen people browsed for lunch or sat watching early rounds of the U.S. Open on a big screen television under a tent.

“It was just two months ago that people were saying to me, ’82nd, what the heck are you doing out there?’ Now I talk to food cart owners and they say, ‘Oh, yeah, Cartlandia, I’ve heard of that. That’s a pretty cool place,'” Goldingay said while answering our questions, which have been edited for clarity and brevity:

Why open here?

You know what they say in real estate, it’s location, location, location. We have 300 feet of frontage on the Springwater Trail Corridor, very close freeway access, 82nd Avenue with 30-odd thousand cars going by, 1,000 cyclists going by each day in the summertime, a bus stop and the Flavel Street MAX station is about a 5- to 10-minute walk away. We’re in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, which has 10,000 people. We’re right across the street from the Lents neighborhood with 15,000 more. Anywhere off 82nd Avenue, it’s just house after house after apartment, and they’ve got nothing but big boxes.

What was this space before you bought it?

It was a used car lot. There was razor wire all over the top of the fence, privacy slats. It was almost like a prison in here, designed to keep the neighborhood out. We took out all the razor wire, took out the privacy slats, and I got permission from the parks department to maintain a section of the trail here, so we’re trimming the trees and keeping the grass down so we don’t have homeless encampments here.

What changes have you made?

We’ve done a lot of work and a lot of that is in the ground. You don’t really see it, but we put in all the utilities, the plumbing, the wiring, fresh water supply, gray water disposal, grease entrapment systems, security lighting, fencing, gates. We have indoor bathrooms, hand washing sinks and things like that.

What has the reception been like?

People out here a couple of months ago really didn’t even know what a food cart pod was. And they had a lot of questions about what we were doing tearing up all this lot. We were working here for months, and people didn’t know what we were doing. I may not have known what I was doing (laughs). Now we have more of a critical mass. We had our grand opening on Saturday. We had a band, and it went until 10 or 11 at night. We still had kids running around. Someone said, “82nd Avenue hasn’t seen anything like this for quite a while.”

How many carts do you want?

I’d like to have 20 to 30 carts here. We put up our first nonfood cart, which is the bicycle repair cart (the Bike Rack). They do quick fixes of your bike. We’re offering free air, and they do quick tune-ups. You can stop and have a bite and refuel.

You played for the Portland Timbers soccer team in 1975. What was that like?

It was the start of something new, and it was really a love affair between the city and the team. We had 6,000 people at that first game, and they stood in a downpour. And they stood through the whole game. By the end of the season we had 30,000 people crammed into Civic Stadium (now Jeld-Wen Field). It was a pretty amazing time.

You also played for the Sounders. Where do your true loyalties lie?

I grew up in Seattle, but I just have a much stronger affinity with Portland.