With the booming popularity of trucks selling prepared food on the street, both St. Paul and Minneapolis are paving the way for the sale of other kinds of goods on wheels.
The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved licensing for mobile retail, allowing nonfood merchandise — such as clothes and vintage furniture — to be sold from vehicles on public streets.
“It sounds like it’s going to be fun,” said Council Member Dave Thune, who sponsored the ordinance.
And the Minneapolis City Council on Thursday is expected to direct staff to study a possible ordinance allowing trucks to sell groceries.
The practice of mobile sales is catching on, said Grant Wilson, business licenses manager for the city of Minneapolis, in part because “it’s a good way for entrepreneurs to begin businesses.”
St. Paul’s mobile retail license, thought to be the first in the Twin Cities, is valid for use only in the downtown district and near Xcel Energy Center along W. 7th Street.
Retail trucks and vehicles can’t impede pedestrians or driving lanes, must observe all parking regulations and aren’t permitted to do business overnight or during weekday afternoon rush hours.
St. Paul was working with a blank slate in developing the ordinance, city spokesman Robert Humphrey said.
“Basically, there wasn’t a lot to compare it to,” he said.
The ordinance will take effect in about five weeks. The license fee will be $72, the same as that charged for such licenses as amusement rides, peddlers and pet grooming.
“I don’t see any negatives for it,” Thune said. “Maybe it’s just part of the changing face of downtown retail,” which took a hit earlier this year when Macy’s closed downtown St. Paul’s last department store.
It isn’t clear how many mobile retail trucks are operating in the Twin Cities, but Thune said it was a vendor who first approached the city for approval to do business on public streets. About a dozen St. Paul retailers have conditional-use permits from the city to sell their goods on private property.
At least two retail boutiques were selling from vehicles last summer, their movements advertised via Twitter and Facebook. The vendors popped up at community events and festivals but weren’t allowed to sell on public streets the way that food trucks do.
About 100 food trucks are licensed in St. Paul and 60 in Minneapolis, officials said, with very few problems accompanying their business.
“They find they’re more successful when they form in groups, and sometimes restaurants have registered complaints,” Wilson said. “What we do is to ask them to put up ropes and stanchions so they don’t block the sidewalk.”
He added that Minneapolis has received only a couple of mobile retail requests.