FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. -- The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival brings a large audience, and for small business owners, it is a great opportunity to sell their stuff. But 11 small business owners say their boom turned out to be a bust.
"I cried, I lost a lot," said Carol Zimmer.
Zimmer is one the eleven vendors who were hoping to cash in at the shrimp festival and leased space from Fernan-Deli, a small restaurant.
"It sounded solid to all of us vendors, it sounded solid to us. We were totally shocked," she said.
Zimmer said the vendors, including her, paid Craig Scott, owner of Fernan-Deli, $125 each to lease space in his parking lot for the two-day festival.
"I've done it on regular weekends before, but never had a problem with it," said Scott.
Zimmer said on Saturday morning, her windchimes and birdhouse business was off to a good start. But at the height of business, a city code compliance officer shut them down.
"They said we were too close to the festival, so we had to pack up and leave,' said Zimmer.
Zimmer and some of the other vendors had purchased extra inventory for the weekend, but because of the abrupt stop to their business, they feel it will be a year before they can sell it all.
They were told the could not compete with the other vendors, but they could use the space to park cars and recover some of their money.
The code enforcement office is part of the Fernandina Beach Police Department. The code compliance officer who issued the stop sale order was off on Monday.
Captain Mark Foxworth said his department is reviewing what happened on Saturday. He wants to know what ordinance was used to put the vendors out of business.
"We have business licenses and we pay sales tax, " said Zimmer.
Zimmer believes Craig should give the vendors a refund. He claims that he told them their $125 fee is non-refundable
"I did not lease the space with the intention of causing harm; I leased the space because I wanted two days off," he said.
But Carolyn DeVol-Odom, who assisted Scott in securing the vendors, said it was never made clear to everyone that the fee is non-refundable.
"We had no idea they would shut us down," she said, "A refund is up to Craig."
First Coast News