Just outside Progress Plaza along Jefferson Street, Mike Hunter sells fresh produce from an unmarked, oversized white truck that bears a few graffiti tags.
Hunter, a native of the area who now lives in Frankford, has operated his business in the same location for the past 16 years.
“I tried it out, everything was good, and I took it from there,” Hunter said.
He starts his day off at Third and Packard streets in South Philadelphia before arriving outside Progress Plaza at Broad and Jefferson streets.
Hunter isn’t the only one stocking up on fruits and vegetables at the distribution center before he opens up shop at 9 a.m., but he can guarantee he is the only one within 10 blocks of the center selling any type of fresh food.
“Today’s a slow day,” Hunter said while making his third sale, a carton of eggs, within five minutes. He said March through August is his busiest time.
The construction that has transformed Progress Plaza over the last year hasn’t been good for Hunter’s business, though. He remained in his spot while stores that operated within the plaza were forced to close for a period or relocate.
“The work took them away from me,” he said. “There was no one in the plaza, so no one saw me, and I wasn’t getting any foot traffic.”
The construction of the Fresh Grocer, a 24-hour grocery store, is the last piece of the plaza set to be completed within the year.
Some would expect the new supermarket to reduce the demand for Hunter’s produce vending business in the area, but he doesn’t think so.
Hunter competed for six years with the Superfresh that stood in the Plaza before if closed in 1999.
“You can’t compete with our prices — $1.50 for a dozen eggs?” he said while making a sale to a customer he knew by name.
His nine-hour workdays spent in a truck have outlasted competition from a supermarket and construction that effectively cut off the flow of customers.
“This is how I make my living, but I try to provide good prices and good quality,” Hunter said. “I don’t know why more Temple kids don’t stop by.”
Greg Adomaitis can be reached at email@example.com.