Small business owners and neighbors plan to gather on Sunday, September 28th at 4PM at cluck! urban farm supply, 399 Broadway in Providence to support fellow small business owner Phil Stewart and his recently city-shuttered business, Leviathan Exchange on Westminster Street.
Leviathan Exchange was planning to celebrate its one-year anniversary this month-instead, they are locked up pending a licensing hearing to determine if they can operate as a “junk seller.” Despite following the State’s direction to obtain a sales-at-retail permit, Stewart was recently informed that his sales of vintage products placed him in a class of businesses that requires an abutter-notified hearing, a hefty application cost and annual renewal fee.
Stewart’s license misstep came to light after anonymous neighbors complained to Providence’s licensing office about his sidewalk rack. The City of Providence’s code does not allow any retail establishment to place any item on the sidewalk. This was news to Stewart and to businesses across the city.
Organizers hope that the rent party and rally will both help to keep Stewart’s small business from closing permanently and call attention to an archaic business classification that no longer fits modern commerce where up-cycling and repurposing are universally accepted as responsible and green practices. They also plan to call for an official change to the sidewalk display issue-otherwise, they expect, and will request, universal enforcement city-wide.
For Levithan’s owner, the stakes at his October 1 hearing are very high-but others feel it too. Rally host Drake Patten, whose business cluck! faced its own neighbor-instigated trials and city-related woes, is determined to shine a light on Stewart’s plight as an example of what isn’t working in Providence. “We need to do a much better, consistent job supporting small businesses in our city: this selective enforcement and selective licensing decision does not help us grow-it only confirms what so many of us already know-we simply do not have a city that is friendly to small business. And when one of us suffers like this, we all do.”