Main Street business owners are voicing their displeasure after a city employee told them they must remove products and advertising from the sidewalk late Friday afternoon.
Ken Fleming owns Ken’s Swap-n-Shop on the southeast corner of Main and Elm Streets. When he opens his shop in the morning, he typically sets a variety of products on the sidewalk. They’re removed when he closes each evening.
“This is our way of letting you know about new items or big things,” Fleming said.
A petition asking that small business owners be allowed to display some of their wares outside sits on the counter in his store.
Jim Sherman said city codes enforcers issued verbal warnings to two businesses asking that they remove items from city-owned right-of-ways last week. JW Games and Movies was also served notice. Staff there was asked to remove the store’s life-size Superman statue.
Sherman said as per city policy, the verbal warnings were issued because citizens complained.
“It came down to literally residents having to complain about not having enough room to walk around,” Sherman said.
Fleming isn’t buying that story.
He noted that other stores in the area, including an antique store on Elm Street and a tire shop on east Main Street have items that sit out, and the coffee house across the street sets out tables and chairs each day.
“If I have to get rid of everything, everyone else should to,” Fleming said.
When the city receives property maintenance complaints for things like trash and debris, the complaint is logged into a system. However, the complaints against the swap shop and the game store were related to city-owned right-of-way, they were not logged.
“These are just calls from citizens that went through our front counter and then notes were passed to me,” Sherman explained.
The swap shop continues to set out a limited number of items each morning. Fleming says that’s because otherwise customers may think he’s out of business. On Oct. 29, two children’s toys riding-type toys dotted the steps leading into the store.
There are a few potential penalties for failure to comply with the city code that says it’s unlawful to sell or display items in the public right-of-way.
First, Sherman said, the city could issue a citation, similar to a traffic ticket. Or, the city could give the owner a 72-hour notice and then the city could remove the items.
“That’s not preferred,” Sherman said.
Typically, a verbal warning is enough.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever had to issue a citation in court,” he said.
Downtown merchants asked to remove items from right of way