City officials still struggling to classify mobile boutique

Fulton board room

Fulton board room

News Coordinator

Fulton leaders are still debating how to permit a young entrepreneur to operate her somewhat unusual business within city limits.

Last month, Mantachie native Molly Marlin appeared before the city’s board of aldermen to request permission to open what she described as a “mobile boutique,” sort of like a food truck for those with an appetite for fashion rather than Tex-Mex. Her business operates out of a truck, which moves from location to location.

Problem is, Fulton’s leaders weren’t certain under which of the city’s laws Marlin’s business would fall. Marlin herself suggested she might be considered a transient vendor, but the board wasn’t so certain. They tabled the issue.

Four weeks later, the board still isn’t quite certain what to do with Marlin’s business. If she were a transient vendor, she’d be required to purchase a $25 license from city hall and provide a copy of their state-issued commercial bond (or a cash bond of $10,000) and a sales tax identification number. The license would be good for 90 days, although she could re-up it once for $10.

According to Fulton’s laws, a transient vendor is any person who sells merchandise or offers services in any building, structure, motor vehicle, railroad car or real property for a period of less than six months. That’s not exactly Marlin.

If her business were to be considered the same as any other stationary retail store within the city, she’d need to purchase a privilege license for $20 annually. It also requires the business have a permanent home.

That’s not exactly Marlin, either.

Marlin’s business sort-of falls under both and neither set of guidelines.

For instance, she said she’d be willing to set up regularly at a given location, sort of like a permanent business, when she’s not hauling her mobile shop from place to place. But she may also conduct some of her business by traveling to residents’ houses, which would seem to fall under Fulton’s transient vendor guidelines.

“I understand that she’s going to be going to people’s houses and parking her truck, setting up for shows,” Weatherford said. Think of it as a variation of the Tupperware parties of yore. Invited by the resident, Marlin sets up shop in someone’s home and shows off a variety of her fashionable wares.

Regardless where it inevitably ends up, Marlin’s business seems to be currently parked in a gray area.

“Say she has a party once a month at someone’s house and parks in the driveway. Does that make her a transient vendor?” Weatherford asked.

Aldermen seemed skeptical.

“I wouldn’t think that would ever be considered [a transient vendor],” said alderman Joey Steele.

Board attorney Chip Mills said something similar, arguing that the city’s transient vendor laws are meant to curtail door-to-door sales. Those, he said, are typically unexpected and could be potentially unwanted by the resident.

Marlin’s business is a different animal, he said.

“If you’re showing up at someone’s house, you’ve been invited,” he said.

Fulton won’t be the only home to Marlin’s business. In fact, she’s already set up shop in Mantachie. Late last month, she acquired a transient vendor’s license to operate within that town’s limits.

Mantachie’s fee for transient vendors is considerably higher than Fulton’s. The town charges a $250 fee for a license, which like Fulton’s is good for 90 days. Fulton officials are considering upping their transient vendor fee to align with Mantachie’s.

In the meantime, at the suggestion of alderman Barry Childers, the board decided to discuss the issue with the heads of the city’s chamber of commerce before making a decision. The rest of the board agreed.

“It would be a good idea to talk with them,” said alderman-at-large Liz Beasley.

Following the meeting, Weatherford explained how city officials proceed will likely depend on whether or not Marlin has a permanent location for her business.

The mayor said Marlin and city officials would meet with the chamber on Tuesday to discuss the issue, although the results of that conversation weren’t available by press deadline.
Twitter: @admarmr

About Adam Armour

Adam Armour has been writing and taking photographs for "The Itawamba County Times" since 2005. His words and pictures have earned 18 Mississippi Press Association Awards, including several "Best of" category recognitions. He has written and independently published one novel and is currently working on a second.