A Concessionaire Story: Starting from the Ground Up with Thiru Kumar

Thiru Kumar came to New York City as an immigrant from Sri Lanka.  After working in several jobs, he decided to go into business for himself. An entrepeneur, Thiru founded NY Dosas, New York City’s first all-vegetarian and vegan pushcart. Operating in Washington Square Park since 2002, NY Dosas has since become a NYC foodie institution.

This interview was recorded in October 2019.

An operator stands next to a metal pushcart that reads "NY DOSAS South Indian Food" and "PURELY VEGETARIAN."NYC Parks: What line of work were you in prior to starting NY Dosas?

Thiru Kumar: After moving to New York City from Sri Lanka, I worked at several jobs.  I worked in construction, then I worked at an iron factory, and then I did some restaurant work before ultimately deciding to go into business for myself.

NYC Parks: What inspired you to start NY Dosas?

TK: I wanted to do something different that no one else was doing at the time and that’s why I decided to start a vegetarian/vegan pushcart.

NYC Parks: What sort of offerings can be found at the NY Dosas cart?

TK: This is a special vegetarian/vegan pushcart. We make crepes made of rice and lentil – called a dosa, which is a South Indian food.  Here we specialize in vegan foods which include no animals and no dairy. We also provide samosas with ingredients including potatoes, green peas, and onions, as well as soy proteins.  Our foods are a great value with every item under $10.

NYC Parks: Have you ever operated at any other location besides Washington Square Park?

TK: No, I’ve only operated at one location and I’m glad to say I’m still here!  I’ve formed somewhat of a fan club among our customers and many of them travel from all around the world to taste what we have to offer.  We’ve become a landmark food desination and have even been written up in some magazines.

NYC Parks: How did you hear about the opportunity to become a vendor at Washington Square Park?

TK: A lot of my friends went to NYU and spoke with me about how great of a location Washington Square Park is. So I went directly to the Parks Department to propose my idea for a vegetarian/vegan pushcart and I was thrilled to have my proposal selected.

NYC Parks: What’s your experience working in the parks?  How do you find operating a business in the parks?

TK: It’s a very good opportunity to work in the parks because we’re making people happy in a relaxing place.  Here, people can come to sit in the park and enjoy the weather while eating good, healthy vegetarian/vegan food.  

NYC Parks: What are your hours?

TK: We are open in the southwest corner of Washington Square Park from Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm.  Depending on the weather, there are some days we may not be able to be here so we recommend that our customers visit our Facebook and Instagram pages before coming out.

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