Street Vendors: Rules of the River Part 3

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The city of Savannah calls them "ambassadors to our city." For some, street vendors are the first people to greet tourists on River Street.

If you live here, you may know them already.

While many enjoy the role of greeter to the Hostess City, infighting and competition can lead to rules of the river being broken.

"If they do follow the rules it's wonderful. They are great ambassadors to the city," Pearson DeLoach, of the city of Savannah, told WTOC.

DeLoach and his Savannah city marshals keep the peace on River Street.

"Well, you are a little bit past the area, but I told you it was OK to stay here," DeLoach told one vendor selling palm roses.

With more than 100 permitted performers, artists and palm rose makers -- all fighting for the best locations -- patrols and permit checks are important.

"Our job is to come down and enforce as many rules as we can to make sure the plaza is safe," DeLoach told WTOC.

He says River Street vendors can be like one big dysfunctional family.

"We have some who say, 'hey, I was here first.' We try to make it so everyone has a fair place to be," he said. "90 percent of them are wonderful people."

However, DeLoach hears all the gripes and grievances.

"Somebody stole some of my palms from me yesterday," one vendor told DeLoach. "Where?"

"Yeah, vendor on vendor crime," Ugie "Red" Graham told WTOC. Graham has been selling palm roses along the river for more than 30 years. he admits, there are problems.

"Some of them, they are very greedy. They get jealous if they see you making more," Gail Tropiani told WTOC. Tropiani has been on River Street since last year, selling palm roses.

"They will police themselves. They will tell me if so and so and so and so is not living up to the expectations you want. You need to check him or her out," DeLoach said.

No complaints about Jean-Claude Martin, one of the more popular artists along the river. His paintings draw big crowds.

"About 100 people come to look everyday," Martin said. "If everybody bought who looked," I asked. "I'd be a rich man now," Martin said.

He sees the palm rose competition some talk about. "Now the rosemakers, they are cut throat," Christine Harris, a balloon rose maker on River Street, told WTOC.

For Martin, he calls his days on River Street, painting and meeting and greeting visitors, peaceful.

"Me? I don't have competition," Martin said.

For DeLoach, he wishes all the vendors had that attitude and followed the rules, with permits visible.

"I like to see them displayed. If they ask for money, that's not good. We ask them to stay in one place. We do not want them walking all over the plaza," DeLoach said.

If all the vendors sang the same tune, DeLoach thinks River Street could be an even better experience for visitors.

"The more fun on River Street, the more business," he said.

To recap the Rules of the River, permits are free, but the city of Savannah requires anyone applying for one of the three vendors permits, which include artist, performer, and palm rose maker, to have a residence.

DeLoach said that if you are homeless, you will most likely be denied a permit.

The permit requires the holder to pick a spot between the Lincoln Street ramp and the Barnard Street ramp, on the plaza side of the river. They do not like to see vendors moving or walking or approaching visitors, and they cannot sell or perform along the sidewalks near a business without permission.

While the city is continuing to keep an eye on street vendors, the Waterfront Association has released a statement to WTOC with their views on River Street, and what they believe may be too many permits being issued.

To read their statement, CLICK HERE.

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