Carts Versus Stores: An Urban Grocery Battle

Small grocers and deli owners in New York are up in arms over a city proposal to license a fleet of 1,000 street cart vendors.

"Perhaps more than any other civic rivals, street vendors and brick-and-mortar stores seem to play a zero-sum game. The stores are wary of the vendors, whom they see as nimble nuisances undercutting their prices, unfettered by regulation or rent. The vendors see the stores as competition-hating Goliaths."

"The city stepped briskly into the fray in December, when it proposed licensing a fleet of fruit and vegetable carts to operate in poor neighborhoods where people were eating little fresh produce."

"Reaction was swift and noisy."

"At issue is the fate of the city's Korean-owned small grocery stores, whose numbers are estimated at 2,000 to 3,000. The groups contend that a vote on the bill should be postponed and say the legislation should reduce the number of new vendors, impose a minimum distance between vendors and grocers, and give store owners preference in obtaining licenses for carts."

"According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, the city health commissioner, the city is trying to encourage store owners to sell more produce, but many merchants have found that alcohol and cigarettes have higher profit margins. Noting that there were 'very few greengrocers at all' in the proposed police precincts, Dr. Frieden said, 'The carts might actually have a salutary effect on competition in these areas.'"

Full Story: The Battle Over the Greens

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