À la Cart

From street corners and medians, vendors scrape by without walls

The sun, the rain, the exhaust fumes from two-stroke diesel engine-powered scooters -- those who sell flowers and distribute flyers on the street experience all of that and more. But this absolute ground-level capitalism has its allure too, from freedom from corporate overlords to a chance at eternal salvation. New Times spoke with some intrepid entrepreneurs in and around Miami.

Intersection of SW Eighth Street and 107th Avenue (Near FIU)

What's your name?

Joe.

Do you work with these other guys? [Four other people are selling candy at the intersection.]

Yes. We're the ministry; we're working for Jesus. We're out here trying to help others who are dying on drugs and alcohol. We minister to people and tell them about Jesus.

So you use this money as sort of a donation?

Yes, it's a donation that goes to support our ministry. This is how we support ourselves. We're not government funded -- yet.

How much do you make on a usual day?

Um ...

An estimate.Um ...

What would you make on a good day?Myself, just me, maybe $150, $160.

What about together, as a group?Five, six, maybe seven hundred dollars.

In a day?Yes, sir.

Has anything bad ever happened to you while you were working?No, not me. I'm protected by the blood of Jesus.

Has anyone ever given you a large bill and told you to keep it?Oh, yeah, I have gotten a $100 bill for one bag of candy.

Wow, that's not bad for one day's work.It happens often.

Really? Like people in limousines?No, just people of God. If they're people of God, of the Spirit, they're gonna give, because they know what you're doing.

What is your church called?J.I.T.A. Outreach Ministry, which means "Jesus Is The Answer." It's a ministry.

(Part Two: Later That Day)

Can you tell us your name?George.

How long have you been passing out flyers at this intersection?About two years.

Oh, okay, so you probably know Joe.Joe?

He sells M&M's right over there.Joe who? No, I don't know him.

Anyway, he said he can make $150 to $160 in one day. Does that seem reasonable to you?I don't know. That sounds like a lot ... $160?

Do you think Joe gave me a high estimate?Yeah, I think so.

Do you think Jesus helps Joe sell more M&M's?I think it's possible.

Do a lot of people who work around here have egos? Is it a competition to see who can make the most money?No, no, not at all. Not for me.

Do you think Joe has an ego maybe?He might, maybe.

Do you think he really works for Jesus?Um ... probably not ... if he's competing or whatever.

That's true. Thanks for the interview, George. I really appreciate it.No problem.

Exotic flower market on U.S. 1 at Brickell Avenue

What's your name?Marvin.

How long have you guys been doing this?Sixteen years.

Why did you guys start this?First we had moved from Nicaragua, we came out here, right? We had nothing else; we were immigrants. It was little at first, selling by bunches.

Do you have a deal with the city or something?Yeah. We have to have a license to put the flowers here. So we have to pay monthly. We have to pay the city to have the license every month to have the flowers here.

How much is the license?Three hundred, four hundred dollars.

So you just give them a little of what you make?Exactly.

What's the most money you guys have made in a day?It depends on what day you visit. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are the best days.

What kind of money do you usually make in a day?Usually ... a grand on a Friday. What's this interview about?

It's about people who sell things outside, like small businesses. Are all of you guys from Nicaragua? Why did you guys decide to come here?Well, ten or twelve years ago there was the Sandinistas, communists; they were in power so ... they were executing the Contras, contra-revolutionaries, who were the ones who were trying to look for a ... democracy. So my father was involved in that and he was persecuted. He went to jail for six months. So after six months, he got out and we decided to come here because if we stayed, they would have killed him. So he got political amnesty, and that's how we came here.

Did you experience any of this communist activity?Yeah. If you were eighteen, you were in high school, they would go through your house. They could just take you by force, because the military service was obligatory.

Did you have to go?No [laughs] -- I was too young.

Has anything really crazy ever happened here while you were working?One time there was a customer here buying flowers and there was a guy trying to rob her car right over there in the parking lot. I went to go over and help her out, and he pulled a gun on me.

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