An empty corner near the Santa Monica Pier has been converted from a hotbed of antisocial and even illegal activity to a pop-up restaurant space featuring a new fries vendor.

The city of Santa Monica had hoped that the corner of Colorado and Ocean, a spot directly across from the famous Santa Monica Pier sign, would be a place of gathering and social activity. However, this large empty corner soon became more trouble than it was worth.

“When the space was in use, we observed antisocial behaviors and sometimes illegal activities. Our vending program was created to activate the plaza and give people a positive reason to spend time on it,” said Steven Welliver, Deputy Chief Executive of Downtown Santa Monica Inc.

The idea was to turn the corner into a positive meeting place instead of a negative one, and implementing vendors helped change the atmosphere as well as regulate activities on the corner.

“When we began considering things we could do with the plaza, adding a layer of business activity was a natural choice. The staff of a vending operation inhabit the space on a regular basis, so they have a stake in the program’s success and partner with us in managing the plaza and making it the best it can be,” said Welliver.

Although only one vendor, the Great American Fries Co., currently operates in the space, the intention is for two vendors, one large and one small one such as a pushcart. Welliver said that in the coming weeks, DTSM will open an application process for smaller pushcart vendors to operate alongside Fries Co. on the plaza.

“We hope the smaller vendors will add variety to the program and an additional reason for customers to visit,” he said.

The Fries Company was born when the two owners of the company, John Warfel and Caroline Artiss, met at a volunteer event for veterans.

“She and John started talking and Caroline has always wanted to do a little more of a quick food thing, and John has wanted to sell French fries for years and so it kind of was like they happened to be standing next to each other and that’s kind of how it happened,” said general manager Jeremy Stewart.

The company won the rights to set up shop after they went into a board and showed them the product. The Santa Monica business sells only fries, dips, and drinks. Stewart says that they are planning on opening a lot more locations and in some of those they want to have not just trucks, but real storefronts that have a bit of a bigger kitchen in it so they can do a little more of a chili cheese fry or poutine.

According to Stewart, business has been booming and has proceeded with few problems.

“This corner is so busy that like, on the weekends it’s an absurd amount of people crossing, and even during the week it’s summer and it’s gorgeous,” said Stewart

He said the busy corner continues to attract all kinds of visitors, some less savory than others, but the overall experience has been extremely positive and they will be operating there seven days a week, year-round.

“We are here until the city doesn’t want us here anymore or until we stop doing business, so we are here for a while is the plan,” he said.

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