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Longtime Wantagh LIRR Coffee Truck Operator May Be Forced Out

Loyal customers of Dennis Timpanaro urging MTA to reconsider its decision to go with another concession owner following RFP process.

For the past 32 years Dennis Timpanaro’s silver coffee truck has been parked weekday mornings by the escalator of the serving everyday commuters who seek their cup of Joe or breakfast sandwich before entering the train. 

“I get up early morning knowing I have to be there for them,” said Timpanaro, who often will run up the escalator to bring a commuter their coffee as they race to board their train. “I like to make them happy.”

Now Timpanaro is in danger of getting removed from his longtime spot where he has become a familiar friendly face serving one of the LIRR’s busiest stations. In late Janauary, Timpanaro was informed that another coffee truck operator has been chosen for the Wantagh train station following a competitive bidding process, and a letter-writing campaign is underway to try and convince the MTA to reconsider its decision.

“Dennis is a friend to all and has served the ridership faithfully,” said Seaford resident Sean Roberts, who uses the Wantagh LIRR station when commuting to Jamaica, Queens and is urging people to contact the MTA protesting their decision to not bring Timpanaro back.

Timpanaro put in a bid for roughly triple his current rent but was informed by letter that another operator had been selected. The Islip Terrace resident was told orally he would need to leave the Wantagh train station in two months.

Timpanaro was one of three concession owners that responded with bids for the Wantagh station to a request for proposals (RFP) that MTA Real Estate issued last August. MTA spokesman Sal Arena said Timpanaro’s bid came in as the lowest and the highest proposer, Freeport-based Gonias Catering, entered a proposal that was 75 percent higher.

“While we recognize and appreciate Mr. Timpanero’s long service at Wantagh, an experienced coffee truck operator submitted a proposal that was more financially advantageous to LIRR,” Arena said.

Despite the MTA’s decision, Roberts is leading an effort to prevent Timpanaro from having to leave his longtime station and is urging people to write letters and e-mails to the MTA and local elected officials.

“We feel that Dennis should be grandfathered in and should be left alone or at minimum should have been give a chance to match the winning bid,” Roberts said.  

This is not the first time that Timpanaro has been at risk of having to leave the Wantagh station, where he operates Monday to Friday from 5:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. before making other routes around the area. In October 2009, the MTA tried to remove Timpanaro’s truck arguing that coffee and breakfast items he sells could instead be sold from the station’s newspaper kiosk. What followed was strong opposition from many Wantagh LIRR commuters via letters and e-mails, and the MTA eventually backed off its position.

Arena said existing concessionaires like Timpanero have been conducting business at LIRR stations on month-to-month agreements that date back to the 1970’s or earlier and during this time the compensation they pay has not increased at all.

“The RFP that MTA Real Estate issued this past August was part of an effort to both enter into new, 10-year agreements with coffee truck concessionaires at these stations and to bring the compensation they pay to LIRR up to market levels,” Arena said.

Many everyday Wantagh LIRR commuters when learning that Timpanaro may be forced out, said they will not buy from any concession that replaces his.

“I’m not buying coffee from anyone else,” said Ellen O’Keefe. “Dennis is the best.”

Kristen O'Toole February 08, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Dennis keeps prices low and affordable for everyone eventhough he could easily charge double. Allowing someone else to come in would not be in the best interest of the LIRR riders because that new company will have to charge significantly more in order to pay the higher rent to the MTA. Also, you can bet they will not be as friendly as Dennis.
Chris Wendt February 08, 2012 at 06:38 PM
This is what the MTA brass occupies their time with? Dennis should not give up, or do anything rash like sell his truck. The new operator may not last long...if nobody patronizes his business. Dennis should seek permission to park his truck in the bank parking lot.
Rob February 09, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Good point from Chris, the greed on behalf of the LIRR is terrible. I'll tell you right now, myself and others won't buy a thing from this new truck. Dennis is irreplaceable
Tom Samodolski February 09, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Is Dennis really that great or just convenient? Just park nearby, if his customers are that loyal they will follow. When a new dunkin donuts or 711 opens, people find it and flock to it because of loyalty. If the truck has a solid 20 year following I'm sure customers won't mind stopping on the way to the station or walking across the street. Maybe he could even give discounts to returning customers or compete with the new truck using specials. I've owned and operated a coffee truck in Long Island for years. I have gained and lost many accounts over the years for different reasons and keep on trucking. In the end, I have noticed that the people usually get what they want. If Wantagh wants Dennis, they will get him. It might take some work and signatures, but the MTA is not completely blind and heartless. That said, this should be a lesson to all coffee trucks. We now need to build customer loyalty through use of modern technologies like our websites, social media accounts, credit card machines, and frequent buyer programs. Our vehicles have been serving Long Island for over 40 years and remain a mystery to most people. Its is time for us to promote ourselves and reeducate people on the vehicles that have been feeding them and thousands of working people daily, helping to build our communities brick by brick. I invite people to visit www.MyMobileMunchies.com to learn more about a home grown industry that is based on convenience, affordability, and freshness.
Malone February 10, 2012 at 01:45 AM
well it looks like we know who out bid Dennis ^^^^^^ that guy.
Tom Samodolski February 10, 2012 at 11:44 AM
LOL, i didn't bid for any stations because I understand the value of establishing a genuine route reenforced by property managers and business owners. Train stations and other mass transit sites where trucks park almost free of cost are very tricky situations for everyone involved especially when other stores pay rent in the area. I am actually here to help the 40 year old coffee truck industry and promote the convenient service that Long Islanders have enjoyed at work and while in transit. If people believe in supporting local business and sparking local spending then continue to use coffee trucks which get their supplies from NY bakeries, commissaries, and other home grown sources. Buying coffee and stuff from c-stores owned by large corporations with overseas ties just hurts everything about the industry here. If any coffee trucks, food vendors, vending machine operators or anyone else would like some information or business advice I would be glad to lend a helping hand. Support local business, Support your local coffee truck!
Sean Roberts February 11, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Tom, if you knew anything at all about Dennis and the Wantagh Station, you would know that Dennis is really that great. You would also know that Dennis has been at the station for 32 years and not 20 as you stated. We are hoping that the MTA will do the right thing here and appreciate any help Dennis can get in this matter.
Tom Samodolski February 14, 2012 at 01:16 AM
I would love to help in any way. I'm sure Dennis has MTA contact information and he should at least make sure he is registered if the new truck doesn't work out. Start with a petition signed by customers combined with some facebook and twitter buzz and try to get some attention. One of the problems with the new MTA proposals is that current coffee truck guys like Dennis bid based on the actual income that bring generate and the new guys bid much higher based on proposed income which could be very difficult to achieve. I hope the MTA realizes this and didn't just accept the highest bid even though the sales goals would be near impossible to meet.
rob b February 17, 2012 at 04:47 PM
they tried to do this to him before - we signed and called and he stayed -- they should know by now how much he gives and helps the commuters - the only way the new coffee truck will survive is to gouge the commuters like the railroad does -- tom take a deep breath - meet dennis - then talk - this is free money for the lirr - he should get a $3.00 parking pass and park in the lot - i will not drink coffee from the new truck - the new guy shoud sub-lease to dennis until dennis had enough and retires - i will use the deli across the st - until dennis returns --
Laury Dobin February 28, 2012 at 06:09 PM
My name is Laury Dobin my husband is Jimmy Dobin. We have the coffee truck at the huntington train station and have had this spot in our family for over 50 years. Now all of the sudden they want to take it away from us just like you, we were out bid. Just like many people we have a family with four children, bills and too lose your livlihood especially in these horrible economic times is devasting. We have an immaculate record with both the commuters and mta employees. Not to be given the opportunity to rebid is just not right. We would appreciate anyone and everyones help in fighting this. We have to stick together. Please contact me back at dobin24@ymail.com
Laury Dobin February 28, 2012 at 06:14 PM
People do not flock to a new dunkin donuts because of loyalty they go to which every one is most convenient. You most certainly not be in this business how would you feel if your livlihood was taken from you. Think before you speak.
Tom Samodolski February 29, 2012 at 03:37 AM
I'm on your side Laury. Maybe you misread my posts. And when customers go to different dunkin donuts, as long as they are going to dunkin donut they are being loyal. Its called "brand" loyalty. People like big names, its sad but true. Anyway, I think the way the MTA handled the situation with the coffee trucks was terrible. Current trucks should have been allowed to apply first or should have been given preference over newcomers based on past performance and overall satisfaction of customers. I've always promoted the mobile food industry on Long Island and I will continue to be involved in the emerging food truck trend and capitalize on its rising popularity both on TV and in our own backyards. Let me know if I can help you in any way, viva la coffee truck!
John February 29, 2012 at 04:32 AM
It's called the free market people
Chris Wendt March 01, 2012 at 10:03 AM
What is called the "free market"...the MTA MONOPOLY??? Does a free-marketeer tell a guy, such as the MTA Properties person told Dennis, "Oh, just put in a bid and offer to double your rent"... ,,,and then turn around to some other guy and say, "Oh, just put in a bid to pay triple what the first guy is paying"...? And this doubling and tripling of the rent...guess who pays for that in your "free market"? The commuters. But does Dennis or even the new guy get any of that extra money? NOOOOOOOOOOOO! The MTA MONOPOLY gets ALL the extra money, and whomever runs the coffee truck gets less money (Dennis may lose everything in this deal), while we commuters get stuck with the tab! Free market? Not exactly, people. No, not even close.
Sean Roberts March 02, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Amen, Chris. You hit the nail on the head. John needs some facts before commenting. Dennis agreed two and a half years ago to pay a higher rent. He is willing right now to match the high bidder so he can stay. No loss to the MTA there. We commuters are always stuck with the tab. They will squeeze Dennis for hundreds in higher rent if he can manage to stay while virtually 100% of LIRR retirees are collecting millions in phony "disability" retirement payments. When Dennis retires after doing far more strenuous work, he won't have a corrupt Doctor to submit false medical reports so he can collect an inflated retirement check paid for by our taxes. Each and every one of those retirees who retired as "disabled" and were not in fact disabled should be in jail. How can virtually 100% of retirees from the railroad be so profoundly disabled that they are entitled to the higher disability pension payment? The answer is they can not. Investigate every one of them.
John March 05, 2012 at 10:42 AM
According to Investopedia a "Free Market" is "A market economy based on supply and demand with little or no government control. A completely free market is an idealized form of a market economy where buyers and sellers are allowed to transact freely (i.e. buy/sell/trade) based on a mutual agreement on price without state intervention in the form of taxes, subsidies or regulation." An unregulated free market would yield monopolies.
ashley timpanaro April 02, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Hello everyone, my name is ashley timpanaro ( Dennis's daughter). I want to thank everyone for there support throught all of this. It makes me so happy to see how many people regonize my fathers hard work and dedicationan. I see my father wake up every week day at 4:00am to be there for his customers. Losing the train station would be devistating to our family, a family of 5 girls. It just go's to show you the only thing that matters to the MTA is money. They have no thoughts of how our family will recover from this. We will not go down without a fight, I can promise them that!!
Tom Samodolski April 03, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I'd love to help in any way I can. Please contact me I there is anything I can do to help. I suggest a petition, a website to educate people on the situation, an some marketing to get the issue in front I the people. How about handing out flyers at the station? The big problem is Dennis made an accurate bid based on the actual sales at the truck and the new guys made a bid base on what they hope sale to be. Maybe the new guy won't be able to cover the lease and then be evicted.
Chris Wendt October 04, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Wantagh now has two coffee trucks, and one less deli. Dennis moved his regular truck over into the Thom Thom rear parking lot across the street from the LIRR waiting room, next to the Concord Cleaners. He is enjoying the loyalty of his long-time cutomers in the new location. Angelinas Deli has gone out of business, on the corner opposite the Wantagh Inn. In my opinion, they were too slow perparing food for the dashing commuter crowd in the morning, and comparatively over-priced compared to Dennis' truck. There is a new coffee truck on the LIRR station plaza next to the out-of-order escalator. They are paying the MTA triple the rent Dennis formerly paid to use that site for his truck. I have not personally witnessed anyone actually purchase anything from the new vendor. Nothing personal, but the guy is not Dennis, and this is now more about the MTA gouging the price of a cup of coffee the way they gouge our ticket prices on the LIRR and NYCTA subways. Dennis has been featuring a healthy breakfast sandwich, egg whites and turkey breast on whole wheat bread. Its a tasty and nourishing treat to start your day and still make your train.
Carolyn Brown July 23, 2013 at 04:58 PM
I use to work in the city and took the Huntington Station train every day, there was a coffee truck with some husky guy who use to say inappropriate things. Anti-free market comments are not American, business needs to go to the lowest bidder, not the "family that has been there 50 years" - that's not fair to newcommers.

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