Midway police shut down a produce stand that was too close to the road last Wednesday.
Scott Morrison, owner and operator of Foods of the Farm in Midway, said he recently decided to let his children operate the stand on Wednesdays as a means of driving more traffic to the store. Foods of the Farm is tucked behind an auto-repair shop off Highway 84 and not visible from the road.
“Our location is not the best,” he said. “The stand was really more about creating attention than selling fruit.”
Morrison said that things went swimmingly when they first set up on July 16. But that all changed a week later, when police showed up around 4 p.m. and said he would have to shut down the stand.
Morrison said the police told him that his business license does not permit him to operate the stand. They also said they had received calls of concern for the safety of his children.
Although Morrison is not necessarily upset over Midway’s enforcement of city ordinance, he said he feels that the situation could have been handled better.
“I went over to city hall Thursday morning to talk to (city clerk Lynette Gloria Cook-Osborne), and I said, ‘Gloria, why didn’t you just call me?’ I didn’t understand why they felt they needed to send the chief of police,” Morrison said.
Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington said the stand was closed for “the safety of the child at the stand and violation of city ordinance 5 (1),” which dictates that “a display shall not be erected or installed, nor shall any sales of goods and merchandise take place within 50 feet of the curb or paved edge of a public roadway.”
“It was verified that the display was located less than 50 feet from the roadway,” Washington added.
Though Liberty County residents have been quick to cite the infamous Midway lemonade-stand shutdown of 2011, Morrison said he does not see the incidents as comparable.
“I don’t think it compares at all,” he said. “It just happened to be my kids out there running it — it could have been me or my wife.”
Morrison also praised Midway’s efficiency not only in helping him get his business started in 2013, but also in getting the produce-stand issue resolved.
“They really responded much quicker than I thought they would,” he said.
Morrison said city officials, along with Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission personnel, were on the scene July 25 to mark off an area where the stand could legally operate. However, Morrison said he has not received an official green-light to resume operation of the stand.
Morrison said the city is working through the details of his business permit, and he awaits the final verdict as to whether he can legally sell goods outside the four walls of his establishment.
The issue is set to go before the Midway City Council on Monday, Aug. 11. Morrison said he hopes a resolution is reached.
“I just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page and that other small businesses don’t have to go through what we’ve gone through,” he said.