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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rack + Clutch: St. Louis "Fashion Truck" Has Dispute With Mayor Francis Slay Over Licensing

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 11:29 AM

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Slay writes in his response (full statement on view below):

After months of back and forth, food trucks generally abide by an enforceable set of rules outlining everything from food safety regulations to where and for how long they can park. They are welcome in some neighborhoods, but not in others. They are licensed and pay taxes.

The fashion truck and its mobile sisters are pirates for now, but I am confident we can figure this out fairly, too.

He argues that it took "patience" and "compromise" to establish a process for food trucks, which, he says "have found a home in parts of the city." Slay says he also recognizes that "food trucks are just the tip of the iceberg for contemporary mobile retailing."

click to enlarge COURTESY OF J ELIZABETH PHOTOGRAPHY

Ponath recognizes that this is new, too, which is why she says she had the idea in the first place to bring this to St. Louis and the Midwest.

She previously worked at a store in the Central West End, but business was slow due to low foot traffic, Ponath says.

"I was interested in opening my own store," she adds, "but once I started looking into that, the costs were just really high for brick-and-mortar."

She says she had heard of mobile boutiques on the east and west coasts and decided she'd give it a try here.

Aside from her difficulties with the city, it's going very well, she adds.

"It's affordable for everyone," she says, noting that most items are under $50 and everything is under $100. "Everybody loves it so far."

She says that she's already made $11,000 in just four days of business.

For now, she is posting her locations on Twitter and Facebook and she says she plans to stick to spots that are private property -- which are currently allowed -- until she sorts out licenses with the city.

Here's the full response from the mayor, followed by more photos.

With patience, compromise, and a mayoral staffer who liked burritos, food trucks - I mean the sort of brightly painted mobile kitchens that now pop up on street corners during lunch and after concerts - have found a home in parts of the city. The patience was important because not everyone (including their brick-and-mortar competitors, health officials, and motorists competing for parking) initially welcomed them. But, a staffer working mostly on her own negotiated enough compromises among the interested parties to allow a fleet of such trucks to try to find customers here without too much hassle.

Food trucks are just the tip of the iceberg for contemporary mobile retailing. In California, you can buy fancy flowers, designer shoes, and pschool supplies; get a haircut; or play video games - all from a truck. And such trends flow east. Just this past week, a stylish staffer asked for permission to see how a local truck that sells fashionable clothing could operate without too much interference on city streets.

My answer: yes, but remember that the road traveled by the burritos was a bumpy one at first.

We need to find out a way to license mobile boutiques - or florists, stylists, or anythingelseists - that does not put brick and mortar stores, who have already made substantial investments in their neighborhoods, at a disadvantage. We will also need to identify neighborhoods that will welcome them. And we will need to satisfy the revenue collectors and law enforcers.

After months of back and forth, food trucks generally abide by an enforceable set of rules outlining everything from food safety regulations to where and for how long they can park. They are welcome in some neighborhoods, but not in others. They are licensed and pay taxes.

The fashion truck and its mobile sisters are pirates for now, but I am confident we can figure this out fairly, too.

click to enlarge COURTESY OF J ELIZABETH PHOTOGRAPHY

Continue for more photos of the new fashion truck.

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