Vancouver Weiner Wagon Saved: How Our Community Restored a Local Icon

In the heart of Vancouver, there’s a tale of resilience, community spirit, and unwavering love for a local icon, The Weiner Wagon. It’s a downtown staple locals count on. But on the fateful morning of March 6, 2024, Robin Povec, the food cart owner, woke to find The Weiner Wagon stolen.

“I got up in the morning, and my roommate was going to work,” Povec remembers, “and she’s like, ‘Where’s The Weiner Wagon?’” That’s when Povec saw the empty parking spot. “It was like a dream,” she adds.

After alerting authorities, she turned to a neighbor known for his early morning school runs. He’d discovered another blow to the neighborhood. A local coffee shop fell victim to a break-in, with thieves leaving behind shattered windows and a seemingly emptied interior.

The Weiner Wagon on the road, a glimpse into the theft. Photo credit: Jesse Povec

Community Helps Find Vancouver Weiner Wagon

Povec isn’t on social media, but posts filled Facebook and Instagram when her community got word. It didn’t take long for people to spot The Weiner Wagon. The food cart was seen heading over the bridge to Portland around 4 a.m. While the outcry of support was heartening, she feared the worst when the wagon crossed state-lines.

But less than 12 hours after someone stole the wagon, a tipper found it parked in the driveway of a house near Lloyd Center. Povec’s friend Casey Girard texted her the address before racing to the location. He arrived in time to block the driveway before the thieves could tow the wagon away.

Povec and the news van arrived on the scene before the police. “And, of course, most of the people ran from the house,” she remembers. When law enforcement arrived, only one individual remained — a woman taken into custody on charges related to squatting.

Robin Povec, owner of The Vancouver’s Weiner Wagon, back behind her counter, supporting locals. Photo credit: Danica Carlson Keener

The Weiner Wagon in Vancouver is Steeped in History

The Weiner Wagon isn’t just a food cart. It symbolized hope, perseverance, and the enduring legacy of Skip, the man who built it with his own hands. It was part of Povec’s story, a pathway to a new life. She wasn’t always in line to inherit the Vancouver icon. Povec started as a customer, then worked in the wagon’s tight quarters as a teen. While Povec went on to other experiences, she and Skip synchronized flawlessly every time she returned.

Povec witnessed downtown Vancouver evolve through the window of that wagon throughout her life’s stages. When she embarked on her journey to recovery, it inspired a dream to own her own business. Around the same time, Skip, who adopted her in every way except legally, was preparing to retire. As Povec was seizing control of her destiny, Skip entrusted her with the keys to the Vancouver’s Weiner Wagon.

Skip watched as Povec kept the wagon’s community spirit alive for nearly 12 years before he passed. With him gone, The Weiner Wagon became more than just a business – it represented her journey to a new life intertwined with the memories and teachings of Skip, her mentor, and her chosen family. He was the wagon’s foundation, and Povec didn’t see a way to rebuild it without him.

The iconic Weiner Wagon restored to its rightful home in downtown Vancouver, Washington. Photo credit: Danica Carlson Keener

Mobilizing for The Weiner Wagon

The Weiner Wagon’s ill-fated journey to Portland, crossing the I-5 bridge, inflicted damage from the tires to the stove. Thieves stripped away anything not securely fastened, leaving Povec to salvage what she could. While she recovered a handful of items at the Lloyd Center house, the most cherished treasures remained elusive. Decades’ worth of trinkets and tokens from locals vanished without a trace. Yet, amidst the losses, glimmers of hope emerged.

“People came out from everywhere,” Povec explains. “People knew Skip over in Hawaii, so they know of The Weiner Wagon in Hawaii. I had people from Africa calling me because I’d done a wedding two years ago, and half the family were from South Africa.” The community Povec and Skip built into the food cart’s framework was determined not to lose the wagon or the woman who had served them faithfully for so long.

In under 48 hours, Povec’s GoFundMe initiative exceeded its goal. The Vancouver Downtown Association wasted no time, distributing vouchers to draw customers back to The Weiner Wagon and providing advanced payments to ease Povec’s financial burdens. Customers she typically seen in summer only started showing up, and people from the recovery center and skate park, where Povec drops off food every week, stopped by with offerings from cash to condiments.

“I’m just trying to carry on what Skip taught me,” Povec explains. “The legacy.” And with such overwhelming support, that legacy has room to grow. Povec intends to utilize the additional funds to create a second Weiner Wagon designed for safe event travel. The Vancouver staple will continue its downtown presence, serving as a beacon for locals and visitors alike. But, as the second Weiner Wagon hits the road, its community will expand, allowing more individuals to relish in the food cart’s legacy.

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