Thief steals food trailer of beloved Portsmouth vendor

Southeast Region

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A beloved street vendor in Portsmouth is now left empty-handed after her food trailer was stolen. 

Her name is Marleen Rodriguez, and she operates La Cocina de Marleena, which translates to “Marleen’s Kitchen.”

We met Rodriguez at the trailer’s home outside the Portsmouth Judicial Center. She stood along on the ground where her trailer once sat. However, sometime in the last week, it was stolen.

“Why would you take someone’s livelihood? I know things are tough with this COVID-19 thing,” she said.

Why would you take someone’s livelihood? 

“You know how much food I give away just because?” she said.

Rodriguez, the “Hot Dog Lady,” is a great soul, and she cares about people.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do,” she said, exasperated and in tears.  

Back in February, 10 On Your Side reported on her and all she aims to do for the community.

“You like food? I got you. Boom. Boom. You know what I’m saying,” she said in that report, full of energy and enthusiasm. 

Not so on Tuesday; she’s sad.  

“I closed up Thursday at 2 p.m., and I have a brand new grandbaby, so I had to go to New York,” she said.  

She went to New York, came home Tuesday, and boom — nothing left.  

We’re told there’s surveillance video of the thief in the night, and Rodriguez does remember a suspicious person last week.

“He was looking around. He came around to the back. I said, ‘Excuse me.’ I was already closed. I said, ‘You can’t come back here,’ and he said, ‘Oh do you make money with this thing?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t make no money with this thing,’ and he just kept walking,” she recalled. 

Could it be him?

“I don’t just serve people. I serve people with love and kindness, and this is what I do. I collect blankets to donate to people. When people come here like the homeless people, they come asking for food, I give them a cup of soup and a blanket,” Rodriguez said. 

She continued: “Here’s my message… You took my livelihood.  You took my heart and soul. Please put it back. I won’t even press charges. Just put it back,” she said.

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