North Texas Daily

Van vendor sells smoky treats on Fry Street

Van vendor sells smoky treats on Fry Street

Van vendor sells smoky treats on Fry Street
April 29
01:24 2014

Christina Ulsh // Design Editor

The street vendor’s van doors are propped open. He sits cross-legged inside the van facing the opening with a table before him. He has placed five herb mixtures, sage and incense on the table for passersby to buy.

He has been wearing the same vest and cap for four days. His van sits east of Fry Street on Hickory with a bubble machine attached to its roof. Bubbles spill out from it and are taken with the evening wind.

E.B., born Michael Latimer, 44, is a single, self-supporting man who has been selling his herbal mixtures in this spot for 19 years. He offers free samples of “smoky treats” to people who walk past. The treats are his business; however, they are not providing him the financial support he needs.

He is three months behind in rent at his local apartment. He has vending fees and a looming utility bill to pay.

“If things don’t pick up soon, I’m going to probably be flipping burgers through the day and be here at night,” E.B. said. “It’d be the first time since 1991 I’ve worked for someone besides myself.”

Regardless, he remains positive and smiling. E.B. is familiar with finding work to survive.

He said he has lived in Norway, has worked in the food industry and done construction cleanup. He was once a professional fisher and also a professional shepherd.

“Here or overseas, whether you’ve got a legal ability to work in the country or not, there is always work to be found,” E.B. said. “The people who say, ‘I just can’t find a job’ are holding out for a job that they feel is worth them.”

E.B. got into the vending business by happenstance.

He developed herbal blends based on shamanistic teachings, spiritual principles originating in northern Asia, for personal use. Each mixture has a different purpose: flavor, focus, easy breathing, calm and euphoria. E.B. said he never uses stimulants, however.

People asked for his herb concoctions at the festivals and fairs he attended. As more and more people were exposed to his goods, the more they wanted to buy it.

“That’s why I turned it into a business,” E.B. said.

E.B. said he might get his work ethic from his father, a U.S. Air Force veteran who doesn’t know “how not to work.”

“I’ve been working full time, have been self-supporting for so damn long,” he said. “I can’t just take a day off and relax.”

Crooked Crust employee and UNT alum Hannah Hansen attests to that.

“He parks outside of our store just about every night,” she said. “Usually when the sun goes down, he’s out here.”

During the summer months, E.B. continues to vend at pagan and Renaissance festivals, where he earns the majority of his annual income.

David Laurent, a clerk at the smoke shop Zebra Head on Fry Street, said he also sees E.B. out front nearly every night if he’s not gone for the summer. He said E.B. provides a product that fair-goers appreciate.

“These festivals are basically just temporary cities of like-minded people,” Laurent said. “He’s following the lifestyle.”

An Oklahoma native, E.B. said he has turned Denton into his winter home.

“Out of all the country, Denton is where I choose to be when I’m not traveling,” he said.

On a good night in town, E.B. earns $50 to $60 off his product. Some nights he walks away without selling anything.

Either way, he isn’t making enough to pay for rent, he said. He’s confident this year’s rounds of summer fairs will bring him up to speed. Otherwise, he’ll find an additional way to take care of himself.

Feature photo: Fry Street vendor E.B. sits in his van. E.B. is known for selling herbal mixtures and has been selling the herbs in the same spot for 19 years. Photo by Christina Ulsh / Design Editor

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  1. Ford
    Ford August 24, 05:03

    Is he still there? I’ve been away for 6 years I .The military. I’ve often wondered about this man and how he is doing. I enjoyed many nights just sitting and talking to him.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Doomedpaladin
    Doomedpaladin October 24, 07:01

    He is. He’s still in pretty much the same situation he was in when this article was written though. I spoke with him recently and he mentioned that he’s just started meeting the “next generation” the kids of kids who used to hang out on Fry and speak with him. If you make it back to Denton, swing by and give him some business!

    Reply to this comment

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