Local grocer: Seasonal produce stands affect business

WELLSVILLE — A local grocer has expressed concerns with permits to sell produce on a seasonal basis, which he says is hurting his business.

Chris Herubin, a Salem resident and owner of the Wellsville Save-A-Lot, addressed council Tuesday on what it can do to help the store prevent a loss in business from seasonal produce stands that set up in the summertime.

Herubin said the store has supported the community in many forms throughout the years, have made improvements and investments in-store, and have paid taxes as do the employees.

However, he said, each summer a vendor sets up a produce stand under the state Route 7 overpass, near the store, and only has to pay a small fee for a permit to do business, which he said has cost the store business.

“We’re USDA-inspected, we have our business license,” Herubin said. “We’re paying a $7,000 a month electric bill to keep all of our refrigerated produce and meat in our store, and we have guy who, for three or four months out of the year, sets up, has no overhead, doesn’t pay any Wellsville taxes or any employees taxes, and for $20 or $30 or $40, whatever that permit is, it hurts our business.”

Mayor Nancy Murray advised Herubin the village has an ordinance that allows seasonal vendors to sell produce as long as a permit is obtained, adding it would be up to council to make any changes to that ordinance.

“There is an ordinance that allows them to sell things, and we have to follow that because it is the law,” Murray said.

Councilman John Morrow suggested the possibility of allowing only vendors with USDA-approved produce, while council president Randy Allmon, who said the store has served as a benefit to the community, recommended Herubin meet with the Claims-Rules-Ordinances Committee regarding the matter.

“I think it should go to committee first, and you’d be more than welcome to come to that meeting and they could work something out, or may not work something out. That’s how it works,” Allmon said. “Then if they do work something out, let’s say that they’re USDA-approved, and then they would make the recommendation to council for next council meeting.”

Murray suggested perhaps the cost to obtain a seasonal permit could be increased.

Councilwoman Pinky Gill, meanwhile, expressed her disapproval for such seasonal stands, echoing Herubin’s sentiment that other businesses pay taxes and rent for their facilities while vendors don’t have to deal with that expense.

“I don’t agree with it either. They shouldn’t be allowed up there,” Gill said. “People are paying rent in their businesses. A lot of big money, and here they are making a lot of money for nothing, or for $40?”

Morrow expressed concern about the quality of the food sold at these types of stands, wondering how the food is handled when sold at the stands.

“I’m just leary of the food itself,” Morrow said. “I don’t know what their sanitary practices are.”

Clover Street resident Jim Saracco also wasn’t in favor of the season stands, saying when he served as village administrator he didn’t see any benefit in them.

“I was against it then, and I knew the one fellow really well who used to sell the produce there,” Saracco said. “I didn’t think that was right. I agree with (Herubin) 100 percent.”

When asked by councilwoman Karen Dash over how much the store loses in sales on account of the produce stands, Herubin said it was hard to determine, but added sales at the store provide benefits to both employees and the community.

“It is hard to measure,” Herubin said. “I just know if they have a pickup truck full of produce that they sell over the weekend, that’s the produce we didn’t sell in the store. Whatever we do at our store level, our employees get raises if we make money. They’re paying more taxes. It helps the community where you’re not seeing any of the benefits from the person selling underneath the road.”

Dash said the permit for the produce stand already has been approved for this summer, but Murray added the owner who had received the permit passed away earlier this year.

In the meantime, the matter was forwarded to the Claims-Rules-Ordinances Committee.