We may pass by street vendors without giving them a second thought as we walk through neighborhoods like Ballston and Clarendon but, in reality, vending greatly affects our culture and economy here in Arlington.
Across America, vending has become a popular way to start a business. There are about a dozen food trucks in Arlington, each of which represents someone’s American Dream of a better life. One of them is called Peruvian Brothers, which is owned by local entrepreneurs and brothers, Giuseppe and Mario Lanzone. Peruvian Brothers food truck started as their dream of opening a business together. The brothers came to the United States from Peru in 1997. They saw a food truck as an affordable entry point for what is now their growing business. Through their hard work and their commitment to offer authentic Peruvian food for their customers, Peruvian Brothers has become a great success, now operating three food trucks across the DMV.
Each of Arlington’s food trucks offers food lovers something unique. That is what Peruvian Brothers wanted to do when they first started vending. Before starting the business, Giuseppe conducted market research in D.C. and realized there was no Peruvian food in and around the area. They both missed the food from home, so they opened a food truck to sell their favorite items here in Arlington.
What started out as one food truck has now expanded into catering as well, which serves items like pan con chicharrón, choripan and empanadas. Among those they’ve catered for is the Embassy of Peru along with private parties, corporate functions and weddings. The brothers also provide concessions at RFK stadium, and they currently have four concession stands there now. They even created their own signature Rocoto Pepper hot sauce that is now being sold by the bottle. The brothers continue to succeed because they are offering something new, different and authentic for those who have never tried Peruvian food.
With each expansion, the Lanzone brothers continue to employ more people in Arlington and throughout the region, thereby growing our local economy. They currently employ 10 to 12 people with the hope of expanding even further in the future. What’s more, vendors like the Peruvian Brothers help the commercial buildings they park in front of by attracting more prospective tenants to certain areas.
Thankfully, street vending laws have become more lenient here in Arlington, allowing street vendors to flourish. The street vendors are now allowed to be in the same spot for two hours, for example, instead of one hour, as it used to be, thereby allowing them to attract more customers. And they may operate on public or private property. As the Arlington-based Institute for Justice, which advocates on behalf of the economic liberty of vendors, noted in their report “Streets of Dreams,” “Street vending not only creates initial economic opportunity, it also provides the possibility for upward mobility from even the humblest of beginnings.”
Street vendors add character and opportunities to Arlington, and we would not have the same community without them. Arlington County should reexamine restrictions it imposes on other entrepreneurs with an eye to opening economic opportunities for those industrious individuals by reducing regulations as it did for vendors.
Caroline Hanson is a communications associate with the Arlington-based Institute for Justice. She is a senior at Bishop O’Connell High School.