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Street-Corner Competition in Full Bloom on Mother's Day

May 13, 1985|HERBERT A. SAMPLE | Times Staff Writer

Mother's Day was important not only to moms, but also to dozens of their kids who spent much of Sunday on street corners in the San Fernando Valley hawking flowers ranging from arranged and wrapped bouquets to single roses.

The 1980s-version flower children were standing at most busy intersections--and at some not-so-busy ones--surrounded by large buckets of flowers and painted signs provided by the several adults who hire the street-corner merchants.

The vendors, some as young as 10, say they are attracted to the work--discovered in newspaper ads and from friends--because they can make as much as $5 an hour plus bonuses for better-than-average sales.

Competition Grows

Many of the street-corner flower peddlers who work each weekend look to Mother's Day as a strong business day. But increasing competition from holiday-only flower sellers has left the promise of huge holiday sales unfulfilled, the sellers say.

For instance, Gabriel Kish, 10, and his sister, Jessica, 13, have been hawking flowers from opposite corners of the Tampa Avenue-Sherman Way intersection for about a year. Gabriel said he once made $80 in one week there.

But Sunday, the Kishes and their arrangements of carnations and baby's breath were joined for the first time by Randy Hale, 22, and friend Jeff Makama, 30, both of Los Angeles. Hale and Makama, members of a group affiliated with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, were standing on the same two corners, selling roses.

Money for Moon

"I'm selling these for the Lord," Hale said, adding that both he and Makama were volunteering their time to raise money for their group. He said he and Makama selected the corners because of the middle-class neighborhood. "People around here . . . can afford to buy some flowers," he said.

Gabriel, who wears a silver butterfly-shaped stud in his left ear, did not seem to mind the competition, saying that he and his sister would earn enough money to treat their mother to a Mother's Day dinner Sunday night.

Jessica, though, said she probably would not present her mother with one of the flowers she was selling. "I don't know," the Mulholland Junior High School student said. "They're kinda ugly."

Vendors Left Alone

Employment of children under 16 generally is illegal, although there are certain exceptions. However, law enforcement authorities in the Valley have generally left the youthful street vendors alone.

Some flower hawkers are like Aileen Moreno, 20, a bookkeeper for a concrete contracting firm, who said she took to selling posies because she needed extra cash.

"I spend my money too fast, I guess," she said.

Moreno, a North Hollywood resident, was one of the few street-corner flower sellers who found Mother's Day as profitable as expected--mainly because she and her supplier found a corner with no competition.

$150 Worth of Flowers Sold

"We started driving around at about 6:30 this morning, and all the usual corners were filled," Moreno said. Her supplier dropped her off at the corner of Parthenia Street and Reseda Boulevard, which didn't appear too promising. But as the morning wore on, Moreno found business surprisingly brisk, and had sold about $150 in flowers by shortly after noon.

Not far away, Summer Reese, 11, and her mother, Geneva, were spending Sunday on the corner of Roscoe Boulevard and Woodman Avenue, where a four-foot-tall stuffed lion guarded their buckets of flowers. The pair, who recently moved their street-corner flower business to Los Angeles from Phoenix, said they have found the Valley a much more hospitable location.

"It's more hip here," the mother said while Summer attended to a customer. Besides, she said, police officers here do not harass the street merchants as they do in Phoenix. "They have better things to do here," she said.

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