The first time I met Leslie Narsisian she stood under her falafel cart's red and yellow umbrella, serving pitas spread with hummus and hugging patrons.
The animated and enthusiastic food cart vendor told me The Pita Pitstop offered affordable, tasty, Middle Eastern cuisine that was hard to come by in Traverse City.
That was one year ago, and it appears her particular spin on a fast, $5 falafel feast will be difficult to find here once again.
Narsisian said a recent city commission decision to double permit fees for vendors working in commercial areas will drive her out.
"I don't have any intention of working in Traverse City anymore," she said. "I can do this other places and make a living."
She'll continue to provide catering and special-event service locally but won't put much more energy into her vending site near Munson Medical Center. The city's $50 daily peddler fee to sell goods during the summer will increase to $100 a day next summer. Narsisian sees little point in sticking out the rest of July and August, building a client base that she can't afford to serve again next summer.
Instead, she will devote her time to expanding her Grand Rapids market and working at festivals, such as an Armenian event in Detroit.
"There are other people that value what I do," she said, calling the city's approach to peddlers "fuddy duddy."
City commissioners cited a desire to create a "balance" between rent-and-tax-paying brick-and-mortar businesses and transient merchants who sell everything from sunglasses to tabbouleh. Peddlers need to pay their "fair share," say certain officials, who add the fee hasn't been hiked in two decades.
Narsisian contends her cart enlivened the local scene and drew devotion from restaurateurs who — far from viewing her as unreasonable competition — stopped for a bite. She's more interested in befriending locals than providing a one-time snack for tourists, she said.
That's what I witnessed when I stopped there last summer to write a Record-Eagle food page story.
Narsisian warmly welcomed everyone who ventured up to her vending stand, greeted many by name and sold her personality as well as pitas.
"It was just such a neat experience for $5," she said.
She didn't realize until after purchasing her cart that she had joined a nationwide surge of food trucks and carts.
Communities across Michigan and the country are struggling to balance existing regulations with an influx of food entrepreneurs whose mobile eateries allure adventurous eaters seeking a fun experience.
Local food cart falafel fans may have to look elsewhere for their favorite fix.
Vanessa McCray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.