Street Vendors: Rules of the River Part 2

Published: Nov. 17, 2010 at 8:49 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2010 at 11:59 PM EST
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By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Street vendors sell palm roses, do magic tricks, sing songs, play music, paint pictures along River Street.

However, Savannah city marshals keep a close-eye on what goes on down by the river, checking who is legal, and who is not.

Long-time vendors claim the city may not be following its own rules of the river.

Among the cavalcade of street performers and vendors on River Street, you just might find Gail Tropiani.

"Thank you very much for your generosity. I hope you enjoy your stay," Tropiani told a couple visiting Savannah, after they gave her money for a palm rose.

"I do all mine on donations. That's what my permit says. That's what I do," she told WTOC. "It's up to them. If they give me a donation, great. If they don't, God bless. It does make me a living. In this tough economy it is hard to find a real job."

Last year, she went to the City of Savannah and got a free permit to sell her palm roses. She is one of more than 50 palm rose makers with permits.

"There is no reason for some one to not have a permit," Tropiani said.

"What's going on? You got your permit? There it is right there," Pearson DeLoach asked a man selling palm roses.

Pearson DeLoach is the man who ok's permits for the city.

"The city has a right to issue or not issue a permit. That is the wonderful thing about it," Deloach told WTOC.

Over the last two months, he's seen many vendors hitting River Street illegally.

"I've had three already this morning where I told them we would be happy to issue them a permit if they can give a residency. They said, 'no, we are just traveling through from North Carolina to Florida.' Well, sorry, you have to be a resident. 'Well I have rights.' Well, no, not really,'" DeLoach said. "One of our rules is you have to not be homeless in order to get a permit."

"They say that but the first person they give a permit to is sleeping under the bridge," Ugie "Red," Graham told WTOC.

Graham says, after 35 years selling palm roses on River Street, he's earned the right "to tell it like it is."

"Only thing you got to do is go to Mr. DeLoach and ask for a permit to make these and he going to give it to you. And there are too many permits right now," Graham said.

"Some of us do start out homeless and if it wasn't for these roses, we wouldn't be able to get in a place," Tropiani told WTOC.

Tropiani arrived in Savannah, homeless.

"I pitched a tent in the woods. Got my permit and because of these I am in a cheap motel," she said.

DeLoach says, in rare situations, like Tropiani's, he has made exceptions.

"You don't need to be sleeping under a bridge every night. You need to find, and need to find, yourself," he said.

All three agree, some vendors may like to play the homeless card for sympathy.

"Yes. I think sometimes, sympathy is big," DeLoach said.

Tropiani says all she needed was a chance. "This has saved me," she said.

Pearson DeLoach tells WTOC anyone applying for a permit must have proof of residency beforehand, but in some cases, after getting the permit, people choose to return to being homeless. However, he also calls street vendors along River Street "ambassadors for the city".

Copyright 2010 WTOC. All rights reserved.

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