City of Saint Louis Twisting Pretzel Vendors out of Business
If you have spent much time in the South City area of Saint Louis, you’ve probably seen street vendors selling Gus’ Pretzels at several area intersections. Well, that may not be the case for much longer:
The city is cracking down on the long tradition of pretzel vendors along Jamieson Avenue in south St. Louis. Because of complaints, city officials say, they must enforce an ordinance that prohibits the vendors.
Kunkel began selling pretzels in 1980 after retiring from the U.S. Postal Service. He first worked at Grand Avenue near Carondelet Park, but later moved to the Lindenwood Park neighborhood, where he had more success.
He became a fixture on Saturday mornings. Until a couple of years ago, he was the lone vendor in the median at Jamieson and Fyler avenues. He sold pretzels for 50 cents.
Then brothers John and Reuben Galvin set up shop five blocks south in Jamieson’s median at Pernod Avenue.
[…] John Galvin insists he wasn’t trying to run Kunkel out of business. He was always careful to not sell at his spot. The median was just too good a place to pass up.
“You can hit people on both sides,” Galvin said, adding that the city has few similar medians remaining at stop signs.
[…] Kunkel says his customers called the city complaining about the Galvins. They thought they were doing Kunkel a favor by targeting his competition.
But it turns out both parties had been operating outside the law. The city forbids street vending outside of downtown.
“You can’t get rid of them without getting rid of me,” Kunkel said.
Todd Waelterman, director of streets, said city inspectors don’t typically enforce the rule without complaints. During the past month, some residents said the vendors blocked their view of traffic, and the city had to act.
Although it is always unfortunate to see a successful entrepreneur shut down by the government, if there are legitimate safety concerns, this move could be for the best. After all, major thoroughfares like Jamieson are primarily for driving, not selling goods and services. However, if the the city could institute some minimal safety rules, there should be nothing to stop these successful businessmen from serving hungry drivers. If that proves impossible, there are other, less busy, intersections where I have encountered pretzel vendors plying their trade without impeding traffic or endangering anyone — some of the intersections around Tower Grove Park, for instance. Hopefully, the city can ensure public safety with a few simple rules and go back to leaving the pretzel vendors in benign neglect.