Signs of commerce remain in the area of a popular St. Thomas outdoor market several days after police ordered the vendors to clear out. Police say they were compelled to move vendors off the roadside in the Ft. Mylner area by federal authorities.
But the two vendors who remain in the area say they don’t think so. Both of those vendors say they’ve been doing roadside business on St. Thomas for close to 30 years. Both found ways to continue doing business while obeying the orders of St. Thomas-St. John Police Chief Steven Phillips.
Coconut water man Elroy Allen hung handwritten signs behind the new pole-mounted notices saying there is No Parking or Vending allowed along the roadside near the pizza spot. He also hung a sign on the tailgate of his red pickup truck parked on a side road and sat two coconuts on the hood.
The sign reminds customers they can also still buy water tanks, and it ends with the phrase “blue tent,” visible behind an open metal gate and a small wooden shack.
A short distance away, at the end of a drive near a fast food chicken spot, sits the produce-laden tables of a vendor who said she has served customers there for the past 28 years. Allen said he and the produce vendor could be found near Ft. Mylner since the mid-1990s, along with one white food truck.
“Miss J, she used to be here in a white van, but she left and went home to Jamaica,” he said.
There was also another coconut water seller surrounded by crates of empty husks who swung a machete daily, dumping the contents into plastic gallon bottles. They made a living there by the road near Ft. Mylner before the Pricesmart shopper’s club opened its doors in a nearby shopping center.
Before, Public Works fashioned a turning lane headed to Pricesmart from the main road. That road is governed by the Office of Highway Safety, said V.I. Police Department spokesman Glen Dratte on Wednesday.
“That road is under the supervision of the Department of Highway Safety. They have deemed that section of the roadway unsafe for vendors or for the congregation of vendors and motorists,” Dratte said.
Which is roughly what Phillips told the produce lady, the coconut water sellers, and the fishermen who showed up on the days when the fish were biting. “The chief came on the first day and said, ‘We want you all to move because it’s unsafe,’ ” Allen said, “but I find that to be a bunch of crap.”
“I’m here from (19)95, and I could never say I saw an accident where they had to call an ambulance,” the coconut waterman said. Besides, Allen added, there are other places on St. Thomas where vendors sell by the side of the road.
The produce lady said she had three days’ notice. By the time June 30 came, No Parking or Vending signs were installed and the produce stand moved to the end of the drive near the fried chicken shop.
Two-way traffic flows around a corner after merging into two single lanes in front of where the produce stand sits now. Since the move, she said, customers don’t show up the way they used to.
Maybe one day, she said.