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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Do vendors bring life to a city? Avi thinks so

You all know Avi Harari, he's been a fixture in Coconut Grove for 30 years, particularly Commodore Plaza where he ran a store for many of those years. In the past couple of years you may have seen him selling jewelry and other items in front of Mr. Moe's - on private property, he wants you to know. He's had a vendor's license for Coconut Grove since 1987. He started selling his items in pushcarts on the street. Coconut Grove used to have them. Avi feels that vendors on the street bring life to a city. Now he feels the village is sterile. This is Avi on Friday afternoon, not a soul on the street except for him.

Well now that Mr. Moe's is gone, so is Avi, but he doesn't want it that way. Avi has been trying to find private property to sell his wares, but he's having problems. He tried setting up in one area with the owner's permission, but neighbors were not having it, they don't feel that he should be selling on the street, especially when he sells the same items that they do in their stores, where they pay rent, insurance, salaries, taxes and more. It's basically the food truck argument.

Avi feels that selling on the street is a human right, it's a throwback to older days. There was a time when Coconut Grove allowed this. There were pushcarts on the streets as late as the 1990s. One of my earliest memories of Coconut Grove was seeing actual hippies selling tie dye items on Main Highway, near where the H&H Salon is now. It was the 1970s; they had the shirts hanging off of clothing racks, right on the street.

But that has been illegal in Coconut Grove for years. We even tried to get artists on the streets, just setting up an easel and painting and that's not permitted. Just last week a musician was chased away by a cop. To be sure, all the fun has been sucked out of life around here, but the bottom line is that it's the law.

I wrote about this in 2010 (photo and story here), about needing to engage people on the street. Vendors are sort of speed bumps. They slow the action, they keep people from racing from their parking spaces to their destinations, they slow down and engage people with the neighborhood. Just last week a bank commercial was filmed on Fuller Street, they filled the street with tents and street vendors and this is a major part of the commercial. It's street life, the life of a village, which was important to the commercial so they could show a lively village on screen.

Avi feels that he needs to "save the Grove." He says, "They don't want any small stores or vendors, their idea [the new landlords] is to  bring big names like Gucci. and like that, turn the Grove into another Midtown or high end area, and then in five years they can sell properties for much higher prices , that's what I think, and I heard that most of the stores are on a month-to-month basis and in October their rents will double or triple, 
so that's why I think we should do something about Saving the Grove."

He's right about the instability in the Grove in many places. But it's like trying to fight off the over-development and zero lot lines. Where do you start?

I spoke with Manny Gonzalez, head of the BID, and he says that Avi is more than welcome to set up on private property and he's always been on his side. But Avi needs to find the private property himself. And here is where it gets tricky, the private property needs to be inside of a business, not out front. He would sort of rent space from an existing business.

Avi went to City Hall to set up a meeting with Commissioner Ken Russell. He thinks that perhaps he can be grandfathered in. He says he has been in Coconut Grove during the highs and the lows; he stuck it out, he didn't run like so many other businesses.

Avi and a friend calculated that in two years, over 200 businesses have opened and closed in Coconut Grove. That sounds like a lot, but he says he has the list if anyone wants to see it.

This is basically a case of the new Grove taking over the old Grove. It's happening all over the village. 

Avi in front of Mr. Moe's.

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know Avi very well. I still have a fish I bought from him. Any city is dead without vendors,of course. Coconut Grove has been dead for a long time. And now, Mr Moe's is gone...I still love the Grove but I must accept that it is a corpse.

April 17, 2016 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm all for LAW, RULES, REGULATIONS & all Federal, State & County courts. Laws in our democracy make all citizens equal under the law. People don't know that other people actually make laws with words that create sentence structure that actually describe, usually in great detail & precedent what a citizen CANNOT DO. Very specifically, The precedent case law that allow vendors, specifically artist vendors to sell their product on ANY PUBLIC SIDEWALK OR PUBLIC PARK under WHITE V. CITY OF SPARKS, Case # 05-15582 2/16,2007 -- August 29, 2007. The art, T-Shirt, or whatever is being offered by the artist/vendor must have a picture or message that reads and/or indicates: Save the Planet, Save the oceans, save the birds, and turtles, or lakes, or trees, or breathing air, etc.. So., I read WHITE V. CITY OF SPARKS, created about $225,000.00 worth of such art and began selling it on the easement right of way at my home on Gifford Lane. Miami code enforcement issued $780,000.00, in liens on my property, I sued the City in both State & Federal Court, the City spent between $800,000.00 & 1-million in attorney's fees fighting my complaint and lost in federal Court Eugene & Cristina Steppe vs. The City of Miami. To see the stories type JOBIE STEPPE into a search engine for the lawsuit TV and newsprint stories that go into great detail about my right to be a vendor, anywhere U.S.A. under this precedent federal ruling. After the lawsuit was over three high ranking city officials were fired or demoted. I risked my property which has a value of about $1,250,000.00 and trusted in the LAW. I've thought for years that the powers that be in the Grove were attempting to extend Coral Gables over to the Grove Coastal area, namely our boating area, marinas, docks, parks, but was told by knowledgeable people that the powers that be wanted to extend Brickell into Coconut Grove. Whatever, it really doesn't matter, We Grovites simply stated want our Grove to remain, to the GREATEST EXTENT possible; THE GROVE, THE OLD GROVE, I do! Don't forget, I eagerly risked my greatest asset, my property worth about $1,250,000.00, as I bet on the law! And I presented the written law and case to several uniformed police officers in the Grove who said I was legal under the law(s) and advised CITY government they would not arrest or harass me and/or my business.

It wasn't easy to get MIAMI to accept U.S. Constitutional Law, but it only cost me $350.00, & 3 years of waiting.

Here's an offer for Avi and any other artist or person who would take the time to read White v. City of Sparks to see what their rights are under the law pertaining to vendors in the Grove, who would like to sell their wares on the sidewalks and from our parks without having to fill out any paperwork, or go through any permitting process at all. I've created a Florida non-profit business venture, HELPMOTHEROCEAN.ORG who is headquarter in Coconut Grove. This business can easily sell about $5-million annually from our Grove sidewalk and parks - - - - LEGALLY! This venture can easily employ 100 local Groveites and would be a feather in the cap of BID and produce 6.5% in tax dollars annually, but more importantly it would create a real destination for tourist and locals and help our restaurants. Is anyone interested in learning more? Jobie Steppe

April 17, 2016 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jobie Steppe, your story is really amazing! All my respect to you!

April 17, 2016 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Food for thought. You want to preserve the old Grove? White vs. City of Sparks is precedent law. Several of us artist can easily create tons of art, thousands of pieces that contain the message SAVE THE GROVE or PRESERVE THE GROVE, PRESERVE THE GROVE'S COASTLINE, SAVE BISCAYNE BAY & the GROVE and would be under the protection of a federal precedent law. There are literally millions and millions of objects that can be transformed into art. They start of being called flotsam & jetsam or objects that drift onto the islands between Key Biscayne and Key West from all over the world. Go to HELPMOTHEROCEAN.ORG to view what is available and the pricing. These items are free to pick up. One person can easily secure at least 250 items daily, and it takes boats and I have boats to transport interested people, male and female, to the Florida keys to pick this stuff up. Can you imagine 10/15 Groveites selling this stuff from our parks and sidewalks, legally? Everyone interested could easily earn a living. I'm about ready to go back to street sales and anyone interested can participate at some level. Tourist already seek me out to purchase some really truly unique items and many return the following year to purchase more and refer me to others. There plenty of room here for plenty of other people. This is a ton of fun and very profitable. 305-447-6526, Jobie Steppe

April 17, 2016 2:23 PM  
Blogger avi h said...

Avi said...
I would like to make a one Correction....
I don't sale the same jewelry as the stores.
All my jewelry is hand made some by me and by artist from all over the world they are Unique ... the all idea is to have vendors that make original art that not the same of what the stores carry and all hand made.

April 18, 2016 1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avi, I make it a point not to street sell anything that stores are selling. However, not long ago David Collins, the original BID director advised me that most people on the streets of Coconut Grove, namely tourist allocate a certain amount of their disposable dollars to say, Miami Beach, Key West, Coconut Grove, Ft. Laud, etc, and any monies spend with vendors is a dollar OUT of their pockets. To degrees this is too bad for the brick stores; after all vendors came 1st in the evolution of humanities attempt to market their products beginning about 1,000 BC. I can supply you with 500 flotsam/jetsam items weekly that can be converted to jewelry that can be legally sold on the street legally. If the police or code enforcement bother you, at all, they'll have to pay you a hefty sum for denying you your constitutional rights under the law. So much so that the Federal Courts have guaranteed your attorney's fees. But, you've got to follow the law.

April 18, 2016 7:46 AM  

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