Mini Vintage Village

Mini Vintage Village
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Days as a Peddler and Toymaker, Part 2

In the fall of 1974 I had discovered it was possible to get a license to peddle my toys on Church Street so I appealed to the full board of Alderman of the city of Burlington and this is what happened.

At the point in the meeting when the chairman asked if there was any other business, I raised my hand and asked for the license to peddle my wares. When the chairman asked me what kind of wares, I approached the large meeting table and rolled several of the toys toward them. The alderman were delighted with the toys as reported by the Burlington Free Press the next day.

Alderman OK License To Peddle Toys

Fearing they might open “the proverbial tinkerbox,” Burlington alderman Monday night granted — despite reservations — a license to a toy peddler who plans to market his wares from a paneled truck in downtown Burlington.

Little, hand-carved wooden trucks rolled down the meeting room table into the hands of an evidently bemused and delighted city officials, prompting the president of the board, Mark Kaplan, to ask for audience donations so the aldermen wouldn’t have to relinquish their favorites.

On the more serious side of the issue, Alderman Clarence Meunier told the board he could “visualize 15 or 20 on Church Street … A new industry that would have to be reckoned with,” and passed on a negative recommendation from the Aldermanic License Committee.

Meunier, as well as Alderman Robert Paterson, noted that street peddlers would be in competition with the Church Street merchants, would take up parking space, and would spend the day feeding the meter, “which defeats the purpose of meters.”

“I don’t see how anyone operating out of a paneled truck can compete with the bigger businesses,” said Paul Couture.

“We can say ‘yes’ to this one and ‘no’ to the next one,” suggested Chester Bromley.

“I think you’ve got some nice toys here, but I would prefer you wouldn’t go on Church Street,” said veteran Alderman and legislator Alfred Couture.

The board finally compromised on a license through Feb. 1 and decided to consult with the Downtown Burlington Development Association (the former Merchants Bureau) on future action if the “first of its kind” application for a peddling permit should develop into a burgeoning industry.
Me peddling on Church Street after Dan and I built the display
The fact is a peddling ordinance dating back to the Great Depression was an active ordinance on the books in Burlington and the town had no good reason not to grant it. With a simple appeal to the city alderman, I had opened the door to opportunity for many small business people and the controversy that followed three years down the road. The predictions some alderman made that night did come true the following summer. Over thirty craftspeople and food peddlers applied for licenses and got them.

To my delight, my brother and I sold everything we could make that season. I enjoyed peddling because it was local commerce. We as craftspeople could sell directly to the people of Burlington. It created a local market and demanded a level of self-reliance that I was looking for. Many of the craftspeople built up a bond that lasted for years. I felt like a leading member of the peddling guild offering well-made products to the larger community. This was a simple and profound realization.

1 comment:

  1. Hopped over from Saloma'a blog; I'm glad I did. Congrats on your success!