Charleston Market vendors want changes to City's Rose Kid Program

Published: Aug. 4, 2015 at 5:39 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2015 at 10:01 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Some vendors in Charleston's Market are calling for changes in the city's Rose Kid program.

The Palmetto Artisan Program regulates the children who peddle sell hand-woven roses in the Market, Waterfront Park, Liberty Square and on the Battery.

In a letter to Market vendors and businesses, the city acknowledges the summer months bring "undesirable side effects," but the city blames the problems in the Market on unlicensed peddlers. It is up to city police to patrol for imposters.

Just last week police tried to haul off a youth accused of raising a ruckus off South Market Street. In a video supplied by a market vendor, the teen was cursing when a police officer tried to intervene.

Several vendors complain the disruptions, with screaming, pushing and vulgar language, happen weekly.

"This is my third summer working here and I feel like this summer was the hardest on them because there were a lot more fights this summer," Jelena Zerenga, who works in a restaurant on South Market Street, said.

A sign was posted by a Market Street business last summer to discourage the peddlers from selling in the area. This summer, a new sign discourages people from buying from the peddlers.

Two city police officers were on patrol in the Market on Monday.

Police have a "difficult and challenging job," the city's letter to vendors states.

In late June, police arrested a 17-year-old who, according to the police report, had a fully loaded .32 revolver in his pocket. The officer reported seeing the teen selling palmetto roses without a permit.

"There are a lot of children that don't belong to the program," Zerenga said. She said she feels they bully the children who are licensed. "They come in and sort of take advantage of the other children."

Vendors are being asked to report problems to police and try to help create a constructive environment for the kids who are legit.

"I think they are great kids," Tangenique Green, who works in the Market, said.  "They're not out there doing drugs and they they're doing something to keep them occupied," Green said.

The Rose Kids who have licenses have gone through the city's business camp. They make the roses from palm fronds, and sell them, primarily to tourists.

"We have to talk real polite and look real presentable or they're gonna say no," one of the licensed rose peddlers said.

Their parents must help them apply for the program, but one mother says the licensed kids have been victims, too, jumped by kids who aren't in the program. The vendors agree the kids who don't belong are ruining it for everyone.

"It disrupts the businesses, the tourists, a lot of people get a little scared," Zerenga said.

While the Rose Kids are not allowed to sell inside the City Market, they sell  on nearby sidewalks. The Market manager suggests the rose kids be given more approved areas in the city to sell their roses, and that city businesses offer sponsorships to provide locations and guidance for the young peddlers.

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