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Tue, May 26

Letters to the editor

Who decides if a vendor is 'charming?'

To the editor:

In response to the editorial on July 13, the discussion is vendors on the street of Williams. Who now decides a vendor is charming and is a quality addition to the community or is competition to our property owners, shop owners and most important, taxpayers for the community we live in?

The questions seems to be, do we need to decide precisely what days, weeks and months these vendors are allowed to set up and who are we to appoint that will be pragmatic about the jury process and choose vendors that conform to what is our new standard. I feel any vendor will be potentially offensive, "a slap in the face" to some business owner in our community. I again ask, how do you jury vendors that are not going to get in every pocket of a business owner in town? That is what the problem is, isn't it?

Your editorial claims that a local hot dog vendor is a charming addition to the community? Who decided this? As a restaurant owner I should find this "a slap in the face" as should every other food service establishment in town. Why? Because this outside vendor is potentially taking our customers and serving a quick meal and a quick exit out of our charming community.

I have a dual residency in Oatman where the burros roam, vendors are everywhere and you don't roam the street barefoot. Vendors set up in the winter where the visitors exceed 500 thousand in a five-month period and leave with the money in hand that should rightfully go into the hands of the property and shop owners. The truth is however, there is plenty to go around.

In comparing Williams to Oatman is as comparing apples and oranges however, the theory is the same, the vendors come, they go, they take our money.

If you want vendors then it is open and fair to all. If you do not, then making a decision is mandatory. Which property owner is going to be allowed to rent their property to a potential vendor? Are the new city codes going to benefit a few or all?

Let us not forget that the vendors that set up on private property is additional income to the one who owns the property.

In the front page of the page of the paper the article about the Mountain Village Holiday is the topic. Kudos to Judge Sutton and his committee for starting now. We all know that a successful event takes a tremendous amount of time and planning. I would ask however, the subject of street vendors is going to come up again. It is suggested that arts and crafts vendors are going to set up as well as food vendors selling hot chocolate, cider and Christmas goodies. These vendors will come, they go, and they take the potential money out of town that could possibly stay local. If we are asking the local businesses to stay open and participate with this event then it is advantageous to ask these outside vendors to come or am I to understand we are having a full arts and craft show in which I would find acceptable. Is the object of this event to bring people to our community to purchase gifts and food from our locals or from the vendors who have paid to be here? I would pose the question, when do we find it acceptable to invite vendors in. Events only? Or all year round?

Lea Bowdon


Vendor proud to serve downtown

To the editor:

After reading the editorial in the Williams-Grand Canyon News July 13, I feel compelled to respond.

I fully agree that the downtown area has (arguably) been looking somewhat like a swap meet with some of the "mobile vendors" set up in a non-mobile fashion. I believe in and laud people who have invested in their dreams (in some cases) with their life savings, in a business with all the pitfalls before them. It can be risky enough setting anchor in a tourist-based economy without having to contend with opportunistic traveling salesmen who have no stake in the town.

The permanent business person has chosen a commitment to ride the good with the bad and shouldn't have to deal with a snag such as one who has little interest in the community, but to set sail before the smooth waters get rough.

Except for a local business permit fee (usually about $25), the transient vendor has minimal claim. He/she has chosen to be vagabond for that and perhaps many other reasons.

In most towns, including Williams, there are designated areas for swap meets suitable for a "durable goods" type of product. And if the vendor decides the location isn't profitable or he doesn't like the atmosphere in a particular area, maybe the next town has a location more suitable. That's the beauty of going mobile.

I cannot condemn the mobile entrepreneur, for I am one, if towing my business home every night qualifies. I occasionally mobilize around the town, as I did on July 4, moving from my regular location in downtown Williams at Bell Gas, to a place where I could better serve the folks watching fireworks. Afterwards, I helped a little with traffic control and a few other interesting things.

To set the record straight, I am the "seasonal hot dog vendor adding charm to the downtown area," and have been in business in Williams going on my third year. I sincerely thank you for your kind words written in the paper.

I've lived in Arizona all my life, except a couple of times when I went to Disneyland to see Mickey Mouse, Goofy and the Little Mermaid (exhibit), but I've lived in northern Arizona for over 15 years and within the Williams zip code for over five years. I own and sleep in my home and do most of my personal business in Williams. For the past 15 years I have been frequently involved in volunteer community service activity for various public and private, for and about the city of Williams, Coconino County and the state of Arizona. I've chosen my business out of necessity and I am proud to serve my "hot dog consuming patrons" and consider myself a permanent fixture. Thank you, all my customers, and all other businesses for your tolerance and support.

Frank Mandia


Street vendor businesses valid

To the editor:

Street vending and roadside selling is as American as mom and apple pie. Many large corporations have started as a cart on a street corner. So when someone attacks this institution calling it 'trashy,' I wonder about the basis of comparison.

My street finding friends and acquaintances that come here in the summer to sell their wares have become the subject of attack from certain factions in our town and smacks of a foul discrimination of competition and a fear that, frankly, I cannot understand. Even the laws here have no logic in their content and have been deemed illegal, according to state law, pertaining to street vendors.

I was thinking of joining the ranks of the mobile vendors and was looking forward to starting. Now I'm not so sure. If the laws coming out of city councils strike down street vending, then a fine old American institution will be lost to those who choose to be portable businessmen and women. Don't give in to this discrimination toward portable businesses.

These street vendors go to a lot of trouble to make their rigs look good, not just to please the particular city of venue, but to attract business. A great deal of money goes into a vehicle to pull the rig, gas to travel, business license for each area, renting a spot to sell from, insurance, and inventory to sell to make enough money to keep it all going. They don't always make a profit, but love to travel and meet people all over the U.S. They bring a fresh injection of new and, sometimes, unusual inventory for area businesses to spark up their own inventory.

Whether the business is portable or stationary, they have the same expenses and problems. They all require a lot to be successful. The only real difference is the portable businessperson can go to the customers and fair weather by closing the doors on their rig and driving away. They still contribute to the tax base every year upon their return. So, city of Williams, what's the problem? What's the difference between a portable business that travels and a stationary business that closes down for the winter? I think the only issue is the portable business can still continue to make money somewhere else. However, some Williams storefront businesses move their inventory to Oatman or Quartzite or other places warmer than Williams in winter leaving an empty storefront during Mountain Village Holiday. I see no difference.

The final reason I don't wish to be a portable businessman is my own protection. The person filing the complaint that closed my friends down actually went so far as to yelling death threats at him after he got verbal approval to open for the weekend of July 4. Seems the city of Williams did not inform the complainant that my friend had approval to open. My friend called the Williams Police to report these threats and was met with indifference and the officer sided with the complainant and not with my friend, who the threats were publicly hurled at. There were even witnesses, tourist customers wanting to buy from my friend. Even the witness was in fear of personal harm by these threats from the complainant. The whole time, my friend was well within the law and his rights, from the minute he first set up. He never strayed, he did everything he could to avoid any problems, complied with being shut down, opened again only with approval after the ordinance that shut him down was deemed illegal by state law. One man in the Williams chain of command had the power to stop the trouble before it started and he did nothing.

If this is how things go in the city of Williams, I wouldn't even want to open a stationary storefront business. I wouldn't blame any portable vendor to not have Williams on their list of places to be for a special event. Tourists won't come back after seeing firsthand how local businesses treat outside vendors. A bad situation all around and lousy publicity for this place that wishes to be a destination. This problem has to be solved now! City of Williams must do right by my friend or suffer the consequences.

Robert Robinson


Girl enjoys the royal treatment

To the editor:

I didn't remember to bring a pillow outside for my daughter if she fainted, so it was good that she only came close to fainting on her 11th birthday, as she would have fallen on the sidewalk and not something soft. She travels often and, no matter where we go, she counts cars. Not Volkswagens or Harleys like a lot of kids, but Limousines. She loves them to death. So when Bella Donna's limo cruised around the corner heading to our house, I began to think that a pillow would have been a good idea.

It was her first ride in a limousine and her first trip to Bella Donna Restaurant. She had a blast! For her and three of her friends, it was like being rich and famous for a day. The driver couldn't have been nicer, even opening the door for the kids as if they were royalty, and the people at Bella Donna's made the birthday experience something she will never forget.

In a small town like Williams, it is so wonderful to have the ability to create something for your children that, to them, has elements of magic. My daughter will never forget the ride in the limo, nor her classy candlelight dinner with her best friends. Nor will I forget the hospitality of Bella Donna's Restaurant any time soon. I wish them all the success in the world.

Patrick Whitehurst


Visitor enjoys variety of themes

To the editor:

In reference to the July 6 "Gateway, Route 66, Old West ‹ we are all of these," superb editorial and you get it just right. Being known as a multi-faceted, wide-ranging town chock full of fascinating things to see, do, eat, ride, and learn from is what makes Williams great.

As a frequent visitor, I also think that being a great "Tourist Town" is about service, and it is consistently excellent in Williams with everyone working together instead of the kind of cutthroat competition that other tourism sites seem to breed (to their visitors' dismay.) Also, even if you come for the Canyon, the lure of the Route 66 lore entices you to learn more about it. Ditto if you're a 66'er when confronted with the magic of the West ‹ each "theme" compliments the others...and that's what brings people (like me) back again and again ‹ there's always more to enjoy!

The main thing that sums up the Canyon, the West, and Route 66 all in one bundle is this: Williams, AZ is the friendliest Tourist Town in the West! Thank you, Williams, for your ever-warm welcome for travelers like my family and me.

Dan Fendel

Sylmar, Calif.

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