Store owner claims vendors are stealing business

A Shelton family that owns a frozen dessert business in Huntington Plaza is not happy  following the Board of Aldermen’s decision to allow street vendors more freedom during “special events.”

The Board of Aldermen made it legal for street vendors to be within 1,000 feet of another shop, public/private school, and 100 feet of driveways during “special events.”

Shelton ordinances, prior to the amendments made at the Tuesday meeting, did not allow street vendors to do that.

Beth and Jacob Tepper of Shelton, owners of Berry Chill, argue that street vendors are being permitted to take business away from them at their year’s peak time.

The issue comes into play as summer offers more special events, which draw thousands of people to the Huntington Green. The Teppers say customers are buying items from street vendors rather than supporting the local establishments.

The Board of Aldermen offered a resolution of not charging local business owners the same $100 fee that street vendors pay in order to set during special events. Vendors pay an additional $50 per special event.

Board of Aldermen President John Anglace explained that both fireworks and the city’s summer concert series on the Huntington Green are classified as special events. There are eight summer concerts scheduled for the summer of 2016, six of which will be at the Huntington Green.

Jacob Tepper called summer is the equivalent of “Christmas time” for owners of a local frozen dessert shop, and those six days when he loses customers to street vendors could “make or break” his business.

“We might not be able to last until next year if the ordinance changes or the city continues to not follow the rules they have set,” said Jacob Tepper.

The board was not convinced six days would impact Berry Chill as much as the family claimed. Nor was Parks and Recreation Chairman John Papa, who said street vendors serve a purpose and have been around for 30 years, so they should be able to set up as long as they pay the required fees.

Aldermen Anglace and Jim Capra said they support all local and small businesses and have the city’s best interest in mind. Capra suggested the shops be more aggressive with marketing themselves to customers as the traffic increases in the area of the plaza.

“I completely agree with their frustrations, which is why we are offering at no cost for them to promote their business during concerts, hand out samples, coupons, put up a stand up to sell their ice cream,” said Capra. “Their store is in a tough spot I really get it. I’d love to see more Huntington Green stores promote their products.”

Anglace said he disagrees with the Tepper’s claim the concert series is affecting their business and admits the ordinance isn’t perfect, but said it is designed with the best interest of the community.

Both Beth and Jacob Tepper said the Board’s resolution to the small business’s issue doesn’t work for their type of business.

“The type of business we have, we cannot bring it to the green, we do not have a truck like the vendors,” said Jacob Tepper. “We have seven different big machines and over 24 flavors. We are not selling a toy, it’s impossible for us to mobilize it and I think it’s unfair to allow vendors more freedom, who collect their money without giving anything back to the city and then leave. We cannot compete and we are very disappointed.”

“If you’ve ever walked into a toy store with a child, the first thing they see is the first thing they want,” said Beth Tepper. “It’s the same thing with us. If people see there’s ice cream for sale right on the green why would they walk across traffic? It’s not logical. We think Shelton is a great place and this doesn’t take away from that, but we wish the board would just take a walk in our shoes.”

The summer concert series takes place each Wednesday night on the Huntington Green at 7 p.m.