EUGENE, Ore. - Maybe it's a tasty sign of an improving economy: The food cart business is picking up steam in Eugene.
The latest addition: Eugene vegan ice cream maker Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss is about to become a pedal-powered road show.
"I can't wait to get the graphics on it and it's going to have an umbrella," said a very excited Christina Sasser, demonstration coordinator for the company.
Nine months in the planning stage, the Bliss cart hits the road on Friday. It's an updated twist on the traditional old ice cream truck, using a bicycle instead of a gasoline motor to move.
"There's no petroleum needed to get the ice cream out there to the people. It's completely pedal power, which is so appropriate for Eugene," Sasser said.
Providing the leg power for this operation is Michael Boyer, who jokes, "I ride my bike around quite a bit, so I think I'll be able to handle it."
One of the places that cart will be set up is in downtown Eugene at Kesey Plaza, where community and business activitst image a "food cart pod" made up of five or six different food carts set up here.
That vision becomes reality later this month. Officials think they'll name it the Downtown Plaza Food Court.
Food vendor John Dibiasi said it will "kind of bring in kind of an open canvas for the moms and pops to come in and bring their business and show their products."
Backers said they envision a food "pod" much like the model used in Portland. They worked through the Eugene Saturday Market and the city to make it happen.
"It's going to make the city money. It's going to provide jobs," said Tom Kamis, who owns Davis Restaurant. "It's going to boost entrepreneurship. All of that will be positive."
Kamis said another goal is just as important: a more positive scene downtown.
"Now you have responsible, invested business owners who are putting in their time and their energy down here to make a positive change," Kamis said.
Officials emphasize this isn't just for the summer trade, it's for year-round. A covered seating area is part of the plan.
"It's going to be amazing," John Dibiasi said.
And in the shadow of the Ken Kesey statue and bench, it's an idea that's perhaps more than a great notion.