• Vendors and Markets

    We are indebted to The NY Food Museum for the transfer of their archives to the City Food Research Group as a resource and foundation for historical research of NYC’s food system. Special thanks to Nancy Ralph, NY Food Museum’s founder, as well as to Suzanne Wasserman and Carol Durst for their work on vendors and markets presented here.  The NY Food Museum began its activities in the fall of 1998, presenting a range of exhibitions on the history of New York City’s food supply. Its mission to encourage people to think about the food they eat, to learn about its sources and to connect with the people who grow,…

  • Food Cart Factoids, Then and Now

    Between 4,500 and 5,000 food carts are currently operating in New York City [2004 ]. Vendors must obtain a license from the Citywide Licensing Center, which is done through a lottery system. Different permits enable vendors to sell at any location in the five boroughs and to change location at any time, to sell in a single fixed location, or to sell anywhere in single borough. There are also seasonal permits available, which allow vendors to sell from April 1 through October 31. The cost of the permit ranges from $75 to $200, depending on whether the vendor will be cooking or selling precooked foods (this includes hotdogs and roasted nuts).…

  • Evolution of New York City Markets

    Until the 1950s, markets have been a primary central component of life in NYC. New York was a world-class harbor and a hub for wholesale food supplies for the entire country. New York’s ethnic communities could provide and support sales for specialty fruits and vegetables, and the sheer volume consumed by New Yorkers made markets big business. Markets also established the center for ethnic communities, creating a central area of common interest. Pushcart markets surrounded indoor markets, and grew on the sidewalks in neighborhoods where markets were not yet established, sometimes bettering official markets in price and quality.  Although pushcarts crowded already congested sidewalks, most urban neighborhoods depended on them for much…

  • City of Nuts

    Peanut vendor near the junction of Washingtonand Flatbush Avenues, Brooklyn, circa 1905   by James Harder Walking down the streets of New York City, one cannot help but be enticed by the aroma of roasting nuts that wafts from corner to corner. This smell has become uniquely New York for so many visitors and dwellers and is often associated with holiday time in the city. It is this association, of roasted nuts and winters in the city, that makes United Snacks owner Alex Rad proud. Rad moved to the United States from Argentina in 1981 to begin his university studies. During his time here, he learned from other immigrants that…

  • Pushcarts Business Facts and Figures

    By 1930, 47,000 family members depended on earnings made at pushcarts; the pushcart business generated $40-$50 million each year and more than half of all pushcarts were on the Lower East Side. Peddling kept unemployed New Yorkers off charity, and later off relief, which many saw as the ultimate humiliation. At a curb market on Hester Street, peddlers would try to make enough money for shelter in the Municipal Lodging. “They [cops] move us on a couple of times a day, but we always come back,” explained one. Permits and Licenses A food vendor needs both a license for themselves and a permit for their pushcart. They also need a tax ID…

  • Pushcarts and Immigration, a Snapshot from 1906

    Candy Vendor c. 1940 From the Pushcart Commission report, 1906, Brooklyn:** Length of Residence of Peddlers in the United States: Time in the United States Number Percent Less than one year 14 2.16 1 year 25 3.75 2 years 44 6.60 3 years 62 9.29 4 years 36 5.40 5 years and up 122 18.29 10 years to life 224 33.58 Life 139 20.54 Not ascertained 3 0.45 Total 667 100.00   Nationality Number Percent English 1 0.15 German 27 4.95 Greek 64 9.59 Irish 5 0.75 Italian 180 26.99 Hebrew 251 37.63 Scotch 1 0.15 Swiss 1 0.15 United States 137 20.54 Total 667 100.00       **…

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