Photographs and text by Stephen Harmon
She is a small woman with a big smile and a gift for gab, who has been serving high-quality, delicious coffee and food from “Mama’s” cart on the northeast corner of Broadway and West 67th Street for almost 22 years. She has loyal customers who stop by every day for coffee, breakfast or lunch on their way to work, school or just walking the dog. Her name is Theodora (“like Dora the Explorer,” she said.) When she started the business, she borrowed $40,000 dollars from her father to buy the cart.
It’s a hard life, especially for a woman 65 years old. In the early days her husband worked with her, but illness has kept him at home, so she does it all by herself. She brings the cart into the city from a garage in Queens hitched to the white van she parks on the corner. She gets to her spot about 4:30 to 5:00 am in order to set up, make the coffee and start preparing the day’s food. The young man with skate board (above), who works in a building across the street, said he buys breakfast there every morning, and the chicken and rice lunch (one of many offerings) is the best in the City.
Her day ends at 3:30 pm when she takes the cart back to Queens. She still needs time to shop for the food and beverages she sells, and the entire business is subject to the vagaries of the weather — snow or rain means little, if any, business, and in winter there is no heat and in summer no air conditioning. Yet, Theodora loves being on the street and meeting and talking with people. She and her clean, beautiful cart are part of the heart and soul of the Upper West Side.