TAMPA — Leonard Whaley doesn't like the thought of giving up his produce stand with its shiny new roof.
It's not the income he would miss — it's his customers. Many have bought vegetables from Whaley for decades, and he considers them friends.
But no one got a building permit before constructing the stand's wood lattice walls and sheet metal top.
And at least one neighbor has already complained to the city's Architectural Review Commission, saying the stand doesn't meet standards in the Hyde Park Historic District.
Now Whaley, whose family name is well known for selling produce in South Tampa for 80 years, is fighting to keep his stand at Platt Street and S Boulevard.
The popular Whaley's Market on Howard Avenue closed in 2008. Earlier this year, Leonard Whaley opened his small stand under a plastic tarp at the corner Sunoco gas station run by Richard Yarnell.
But Whaley, 68, had his fourth heart attack in June. While recuperating from surgery, Yarnell surprised him by building the new stand behind the gas station. It was completed July 1.
Then on Sept. 24, code enforcement inspector Alan Villa stopped by, after a resident complained. He told Yarnell and Whaley the stand was in violation and that vending is illegal within a historic district. Whaley said he got a 45-day vendor's permit when he set up the stand. When it expired, he began operating under Yarnell's business.
Villa gave Whaley a few days to stop selling. But he didn't. Whaley had $800 worth of produce there and decided to keep working. When Villa returned Monday morning, he found Whaley open for business. Villa wrote a report, which he sent to the city's zoning department. The staff will decide whether to issue a citation for vending in the historic district, which could take about a week, Villa said.
Yarnell said he will do what it takes to bring the stand up to code.
"If Mr. Whaley isn't historic for Hyde Park, what is?"
Dennis Fernandez, the city's historic preservation manager, says Yarnell could get a permit approved for the structure, if inspectors find that it meets building standards.
Whaley said a beat up old rusty trailer sat at the spot before him.
Recently he stood in a rainbow of purple eggplant, yellow squash and a mound of red tomatoes.
One woman approached and told him it was good to have him back.
Whaley told another customer about the stand's dilemma. When the man suggested he find a new location, Whaley replied, "I really just want to stay here."
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3431.