How the City’s Food Carts Are Made

By Ed Lefkowicz / Photography By Ed Lefkowicz | April 10, 2017
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Food trucks, trailers and carts are nearly everywhere. Somebody is making these things in masses, and I wanted to know who and where.  

My quest lead me to Ozone Park and to Jack Beller, the guy in charge of 800BuyCart, a division of Worksman, which primarily builds industrial bicycles.

Photo 1: Sheetmetal worker Nestor Lugo using a rawhide mallet to fold the edge of a stainless steel bain-marie for a food cart. The interior has easily-cleaned radiused corners, and a folded-over lip to keep the hot water from sloshing out during transportation.
Photo 2: Jasim Uddin holds a water heater in place in a food cart being built for Nathan's Famous hot dogs. Cold water is heated by the burners under the bain-marie, and flows to the sink.
Photo 3: Welder Joshua Sanchez working on an aluminum frame for a food cart canopy. The carts are made of stainless steel inside and out, but the canopies are framed with aluminum to save weight.
Photo 4: Jack Beller, Vice President of Worksman, and head of 800BuyCart, in the cart factory in Ozone Park, Queens.

Beller’s father Edward worked in the sheet metal trade on the Lower East Side, and in 1948 opened Admar Bar And Kitchen Equipment Corp., next door to a roofing firm that made illegal cookers for wooden hot dog carts. One day when the neighbor was away, he was asked if he could make a hot dog cooker.

He saw how grungy and hard to clean existing carts were, and gave it a try. He used stainless steel warming pans with radiused seams so they could be easily cleaned; used better wheels (sourced from Worksman), better heat sources, built lighter weight carts entirely out of stainless steel, developed trailers that could be towed by cars, and pretty much created many of the street vending options we're now familiar with.

The company now makes hand carts, trailers and traditional step vans for food purveyors all over the country—about 40% of their business is out of state.

Photo 1: Jasim Uddin filing rough edges n a water heater for a food cart for Nathan's Famous.
Photo 2: Anthony Bonilla, owner Gary D'Angelo's nephew, slicing a knish in the D'Angelos food trailer on Woodhaven Boulevard near St. John's Cemetery in Queens. Their trailer is a customized race car trailer, with the interior, including a solid stainless sterl grill, fitted out by 800BuyCart, which has been outfitting D'Angelos since 1989.. In keeping with the generally Italian menu, the knishes can be stuffed with sausage, onions and peppers.

During a factory tour I observed workers fitting a variety of stainless steel carts for vendors of Italian sausage and hot dogs (Nathan's Famous is a client), ice cream, rolled ice cream, halal meats, and tacos. While they have ready-made designs, carts can be completely customized to suit vendors' needs as well as meeting local, state and National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) sanitary codes. Propane provides heat for cooking and warming, as well as for hand washing; and refrigeration, either from electrical generators (more common in trucks) or holdover refrigeration, in which a refrigerant is supercooled overnight, and works much like the blue freezer blocks used in picnic coolers, to keep food safe during the carts' working hours. All this is efficiently squeezed into the tiny confines of the carts, trailers, and trucks—think smaller than a New York apartment, even smaller than the interior of a boat. Even Marie Kondo would be amazed.

Photo 1: D'Angelo's Italian sausage food trailer on Woodhaven Blvd in Queens.
Photo 2: Angela D'Angelo in the Dominick's Hot Dogs van, with one of their hot dogs with kraut and mustard. The hot dogs are a deluxe line by Sabrett, not available at retail. The van is parked just a short distance from D'Angelos trailer.
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