The city’s desire to diversify dining options at Blackburn Park could have Rosa Guthrie rolling her last burrito there come October.
For the past nine years between April and October, Guthrie has operated Rosa’s Taco Stand out of the city-owned concession facility at Blackburn Park. That building however, will soon be retired as the city is constructing a new one along with other renovations to the park.
“The park is getting developed; we’re having the play space, the accessible playground there, we’re working on funding for a LifeTrail system, the skateboard park is of course there, there will be improved field house bathrooms there, so I expect the park to also get a lot more use,” says Mayor Marty Bootsma.
Guthrie would like to continue operating her taco stand in the park, but has learned that being something of a dining institution in Salmon Arm doesn’t give her a bye into the new concession. Instead, she is competing for the lease through a request for proposal (RFP) process.
Bootsma says the RFP process was introduced to be fair to the business community, so that anyone who wants to has the opportunity to put in a bid.
While she has submitted a proposal, Guthrie isn’t exactly brimming with optimism over her prospects.
“They haven’t made a decision on who is going to get it – if they say ‘no,” I’m out after nine years, and 14 years in business,” says Guthrie.
Part of Guthrie’s pessimism is due to the fact the city is looking for an extended variety of offerings to be made available from the new concession.
“I believe in the RFP is probably a certain expectation of certain foods that are available,” said Bootsma. “I don’t think there’s anything to stop anybody from making tacos. However, it’s not really up to Ms. Guthrie in the request for proposals to determine what the menu would be. We’re going to have ball tournaments there, not everybody likes tacos, and I think in fairness to the public, we should have maybe a broader selection.”
Guthrie says she was told by the city that a broader selection would include things like hotdogs, hamburgers and ice cream – food items that she’s unwilling to add to her menu.
“The gentleman I spoke to at the city, he said not very many people like Mexican food, so I have to have hotdogs, maybe hamburgers and, you know, ice cream,” said Guthrie. “I’m not a hotdog vendor. If they want to have a hamburger, they can go to A&W.”
Other issues Guthrie has with the RFP criteria have to do with the recommended hours of operation and the term of the lease. She says the city is seeking an operator willing to be open seven days a week.
Guthrie’s taco stand is closed Sundays and Mondays, and she is reluctant to give up her days off. As for the term, Guthrie says the city is looking for a 10-year commitment.
“I’m 62 now, I don’t want to be working until I’m 72,” she laughs.
Bootsma says the city has bent over backwards to help Guthrie out, but maintains it has to be fair. Guthrie doesn’t disagree, and is grateful to city engineering and public works director Dale McTaggart who she says, contacted her personally and, despite her reluctance to cook burgers and hotdogs, encouraged her to submit an RFP.
Guthrie is saddened by the idea this may be the last season for her taco stand in Blackburn. At the same time, she is strong-willed and determined to continue serving tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare – a recipe that’s kept her in business for more than a decade.