Snack Shack setting the table for economic development at Harbor Overlook Park

August 4, 2022 : Cape Cod Times, by Denise Coffey

HYANNIS — For the first time, visitors to Harbor Overlook Park will be able to grab snacks and drinks at the Snack Shack, a shanty-sized building at the edge of the park.

Using a $45,000 grant from the Massachusetts Finance Development Agency, Barnstable is offering a new opportunity for food vendors. They can sign up to sell food for a week at the park and get a $1,200 mini grant to help with startup, advertising and staffing. 

Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Gloria McPherson calls it “small-scale economic development.”

The $45,000 Transformative Development Initiative grant was used to build the snack shack, buy a restaurant-grade freezer and refrigerator, install a prep area, counter and a portable wash stand. The town was able to earmark up to $1,200 for each applicant.

Snack Shack could spur economic growth

“We’re giving people a boost,” McPherson said. “We thought we’d attract people starting out, those who want to test their menus, see what it's like running a shop in downtown Hyannis.”

The Transformative Development Initiative grants are specifically meant to "challenge" Gateway Cities — those mid-size urban areas that anchor a region’s economy — to explore how they might update policies and procedures to improve business development and urban vibrancy, according to the MassDevelopment website. 

The first Snack Shack occupant, the Centerville Pie Co., helped Barnstable do just that. Because Centerville Pie planned to sell pre-packaged food, including sandwiches, drinks and frozen pops, they just needed the health department to sign off, a process that could take a few days. Had they made the food on-site, they would have needed a Board of Health permit, which could have taken a month. 

Centerville Pie was first vendor

The initiative was new to the Board of Health and the Health Department. They increased the temporary food permit allowable days from four to six to accommodate the Snack Shack. In the meantime, a variety of town departments worked together to streamline processes which made it easier for the applicant, McPherson said.  

McPherson calls Overlook Park a quintessentially Cape Cod location. Ocean breezes off the harbor, boats at moorings and docks, and the occasional incoming and outgoing ferries make it so. It’s a perfect place to sit and watch people and traffic coming and going throughout the summer.  

Main Street and the harbor are just blocks away from the green space nestled between Main and South streets. Pedestrians make their way through the Village Green and Overlook Park, a small but significant piece of the HyArts Cultural District.  

Six artist shanties showcase a revolving lineup of artists. On Mondays at noon, there are free musical performances by local musicians. Children can play with the colorful hula hoops, throw cornhole tosses, piece together puzzles and test themselves on their Cape Cod knowledge at stations throughout the park. 

“Place” and “place making” have been part of the lexicon of planners and developers for years. Establishing place as a key memory and experience can fuel commerce activity, McPherson said.

Still openings available this summer

“We’re setting the table for economic development,” she said. “It’s all interrelated. I don’t think there is anything more Cape-like than a snack shack overlooking the harbor.” 

Barnstable intends to make the initiative permanent.

The park draws plenty of families and being able to grab a drink or soda or frozen pop will make it that much better, McPherson said.

Applications are still open for one-week stints this summer. For more information go to