Street Vendors: Rules of the River Part 1

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah's street vendors are some of the first people to welcome visitors to our city, but they can't just set up shop wherever they choose. There are rules of the river they need to follow.

An assortment of colorful characters blanket River Street bearing balloons, paintings, pictures, palms. Some street vendors have been around for decades.

"I been down here a long time. I pretty much know this river like the palm of my hand," Ugie Graham told WTOC.

Graham, known to many as "Red," has been handing out palm roses, for donations, the last 30 plus years. He's one of more than 50 people with palm rose permits on River Street.

"I'm the oldest palm rose maker around here. Age and doing this," Graham said.

After his employers shut down in 1993, making palm roses became a full-time job.

"Sun up to sun down," he said.

And Graham, sees all and hears all. "There are some issues, I'm going to be honest, especially with the new breed I call them," he said. "They are thirsty. Real thirsty."

Graham says vendor on vendor crime is not uncommon and competition over locations can be intense. Rule one of street vending, you need a permit, and the permit only allows you to set up between the Barnard Street ramp and the Lincoln Street ramp of River Street. Street artist and performers are only allowed along the river in the plazas and squares.

Sidewalks along businesses are off limits, unless a store gives you permission. Anywhere else, including city market, is taboo.

"You get a bunch of people bunched up, there is going to be problems," Graham said.

"Now the rosemakers. They are cut throat," Christine Harris told WTOC.

Harris is a River Street newbie, hitting the river three months ago.

"Hi guys. Balloons? They're not free though," she told WTOC. Harris is one of only three balloon artists.

"My day? Let's see. Sell ballons. Buy beer," she laughed. "No."

Street vending rule number two, no drinking alcohol.

"But if I go into the Warehouse and grab a beer, and come back out, I don't see the harm in that," Harris said.

The City of Savannah does, and they also frown upon approaching people and moving around, something Harris seemed to do a lot of.

"I have been ID'd twice. Had my permit checked twice," she said. She admits, the money can be okay.

"Typical, for three flowers, $5. The most I made in a day was on a Saturday. I'd say $78," Harris said. "I wouldn't call it a living. No."

For Graham it is and as he watches the number of street vendors grow, he knows when it will be his time to stop.

"Till I can't get to the top of a palm tree," Graham said. "I am 60 something years old and I'm still climbing."

Permits are free for street vendors, and take about two days to process, but they must be able to prove they have a stable residence. Tomorrow night on THE News at 6:00, we'll find out more rules of the river as we meet Savannah's city marshal, who cracks down on rule breakers and tries to keep the peace along the river.

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