First things first. I decided in mid-2013, while living in Little Rock, AR, to start a mobile boutique as an extra income source but there was not a lot of information out there, except for the experiences of other fashion truck owners. In other cities, I noticed that mobile boutiques were parking on city streets, which I thought was a fantastic opportunity. No rent, just metered parking! But I live in Arkansas and I realized I had never seen a food truck parked downtown in either Little Rock or North Little Rock, except during festivals. I needed to find out why. Not being able to sell in those locations would greatly affect my ability to park the boutique in busy areas and keep my costs down.
I discovered that in order to legally sell from my mobile boutique in Little Rock, I would have to be parked in a private lot in a commercially zoned area. The only exception to this rule (unofficially) is the River Market area downtown where merchandise vendors are allowed to sell during the biweekly farmers market. We'll talk more about the River Market later... So, where are the commercially zoned areas and lots?! The zoning office gave me a link to an interactive zoning map that shows property lines, and zoning info for each property. This map has come in handy while searching for possible selling locations.
Fashion Truck Whaaaa?
I started my search with the office that issues Little Rock business licenses, but the "boutique on wheels" idea was new to the person I spoke with so she referred me to the city zoning department to find out what sort of license I would need. I was transferred around a few times and had to call back before I got someone who could see my vision. He ended up giving me a $50 "peddlers" license and had me sign the mobile vendor guidelines which are also given to food trucks and vendors selling things from push carts. Those guidelines listed restrictions which made selling on city streets illegal. Bummer.
Get your Mobile Retail Permit FIRST.
The moral of the story is that every city may have different ways they categorize mobile boutiques, different permits and licenses, and different restrictions on parking and selling in city parking spots. The laws in your area could make a big difference in your business plan so check with your local zoning office in the beginning, before you start shelling out cash. Stay tuned for more tips on starting your own mobile boutique business.