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Wagon owner still hopes to plant food business at old Greenfield farm site

Oct. 2, 2012

Greenfield - A businessman who wants to move his concession wagon business to a site in Greenfield and at the same time help preserve an 1865 farmhouse on the property is not giving up on his idea.

Craig Mengeling will be back before the Greenfield Plan Commission on Tuesday with plans he thinks will please the city.

Mengeling and his wife want to turn part of the farmhouse at 5225 W. Forest Home Ave. into headquarters for his food-service business, which in addition to the concession wagons themselves would also include a catering office for clients. Already prepared food would be assembled in the farmhouse kitchen to be sold in the wagons at fairs and festivals.

The uniquely designed concession wagons also could be opened for business at the site periodically and would be stored on the property

The Mengelings would live in the home's upper level. In addition, the couple would like to turn an outbuilding on the site into a small antique and furniture refurbishing center and sales shop.

However, some of the details in that plan have met with some resistance from city officials.

Out of sight on site

In the couple's first attempt at gaining Common Council approval last month, some aldermen didn't want the wagons to be in full view on the property, nor did they like the idea of a 10-foot fence to screen the wagons from view. Instead, they strongly suggested a garage.

But Mengeling said after the meeting that a garage is not an option because he isn't ready to buy the property and because he needs to start small and see how the cash flows.

He was a little surprised that city officials wanted the wagons screened. Their Hard Wood Café and Wurst Wagon are so unique they have been featured in newspapers and magazines, he said.

As it turns out, a farmer in Franklin has offered to store one of the wagons on his farm and Mengeling has remeasured the remaining wagon and found it is short enough to fit behind the existing 8-foot fence if a little lattice trim is added on top.

Parking lot issues

Some aldermen also said parking arrangements seemed insufficient. Among those concerns was the number of available spaces and the gravel surface of the existing parking area. City officials preferred it to be paved.

Mengeling said he believes he has taken care of the parking issue by making arrangements to use the church parking lot behind the property.

Chuck Erickson, Greenfield director of economic development and planning, said he will recommend against requiring the Mengelings to pave the parking area, although he does want them to provide a parking layout so the city has a feel for how many cars the property can comfortably hold.

Normally, if a business has lots of employees with people and deliveries coming and going daily, a better lot would be required, he said. But the Mengelings have a smaller and seasonal business in mind, and they want to live there. Those factors should be taken into consideration, Erickson said.

Filling a void

Giving new life to the historic farmhouse also should be considered, Mengeling said. He noted that he could have moved the business to at least three other sites, but he wants to save the farmhouse.

Erickson noted that the farmhouse has been vacant for years, except for some limited weekend use for craft fairs. This was the first proposal for a regular occupant in years, he said.

The owner has had offers from people who want to tear the house down and build something else there, Mengeling said.

The Planning Commission will consider all those factors before making a recommendation to the Common Council, which will discuss the issues again at a later date.

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