How's Work?: The Sports Merch Peddler

Bill Vanwie will help you keep current on Steelers and Pirates gear, as he vends near the stadiums.




photo by Weston Powers
 

 

Bill Vanwie
Job:
Outdoor Vendor
 

How did you get your start?
I waited tables and [tended bar for] 20 years in about 10 different states . . . My friend told me there was [a] City Council meeting about legalizing vending in the city for the first time. They had all these food trucks and people selling shaved ice outside the tennis courts on the North Side; no one had any permits. The [council] wanted to legalize so they could charge to vend and tax it. [Once you get a spot], if you follow all the rules and pay your fee, you can keep that spot.

And you have had the same spot outside PNC Park [at Sixth Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard] since you started vending?
Since they built the stadium. I actually have a few spots now. I do Steelers, Pirates and Pitt [football] . . . I used to have a taco cart . . . and we had a hot dog cart in Market Square for two-and-a-half years. And I had another [vending spot] on Liberty and Fifth Avenue for two years. We had a soup cart there. I wanted to be the Soup Nazi of Pittsburgh.

How do you obtain the Pirates T-shirts and other items you sell? 
I have about 10 different wholesalers. I have a couple of good friends who have been doing it for years. When licensing changes, a lot of companies have to sell everything. If you go to trade shows in Vegas, you can buy $20,000 worth of Steelers stuff.

How much of your time is spent on the bureaucratic process of permits and such? 
Through the years, we’ve had our ups and downs. Lately, it’s been fairly OK. The thing that’s not very nice is that we’ll pay all this money for permits for different stands, and people will . . . set a few bags of stuff on the corner and try to sell it with no permit. They’ll cut you off and sell at the end of the game. I hire details of [off-duty] city police officers to patrol the area to see that no one is selling without a permit. I’ll pay for that out of [my] pocket.

 

Hot Reads

From Field to Fork

From Field to Fork

We put together this dynamic guide to help you find and engage with the region’s sustainable producers of meat, honey, alcohol, fruits and vegetables.
Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

PittGirl wonders if it's still possible to raise kids to be big-hearted people in an age of self-obsession.
Review: Café Zinho

Review: Café Zinho

Seasoned chef and entrepreneur Toni Pais continues to impress folks who dine at his longstanding Mediterranean establishment, Café Zinho.
City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

We explore every inch of Allegheny County (and beyond) for a look at the communities where we live, work and play.

The 412

5 Pittsburgh Bands You Need to Know

5 Pittsburgh Bands You Need to Know

Fancy yourself a music snob? Brush up with our list of local musicians who might be flying under the radar.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pittsburgh's Polo Scene

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pittsburgh's Polo Scene

(Yes, there's a polo scene.)
A Pitt Computer Team Just Proved a 400-Year-Old Theory

A Pitt Computer Team Just Proved a 400-Year-Old Theory

Hundreds of years after Johannes Kepler presented a theory on how to best stack spherical objects, Pitt reps confirm that the German mathematician was correct.
Next Month, the City of Pittsburgh Will Turn Into the Best Gym Class Ever

Next Month, the City of Pittsburgh Will Turn Into the Best Gym Class Ever

Act like a kid again at the City of Play Best Games Fest.

Hot Reads

From Field to Fork

From Field to Fork

We put together this dynamic guide to help you find and engage with the region’s sustainable producers of meat, honey, alcohol, fruits and vegetables.
Review: Café Zinho

Review: Café Zinho

Seasoned chef and entrepreneur Toni Pais continues to impress folks who dine at his longstanding Mediterranean establishment, Café Zinho.
Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

PittGirl wonders if it's still possible to raise kids to be big-hearted people in an age of self-obsession.
City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

We explore every inch of Allegheny County (and beyond) for a look at the communities where we live, work and play.
6 More Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh

6 More Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh

PittGirl's at it again — this time with a list of a half-dozen fun facts you'll want to mention at your next cocktail party.
'Which Neighborhood Should I Live In?'

'Which Neighborhood Should I Live In?'

We pick the perfect neighborhood for six breeds of ’Burgher.