Today's youth often are labeled as lazy, technology-obsessed, self-entitled brats.
So you'd think that when a kid decides to take some initiative to start a business and earn money, adults would appreciate the effort.
Unfortunately, 12-year-old T.J. Guerrero's little business endeavor is incurring the wrath of one of his neighbors.
T.J. has been running a successful cookie and lemonade stand in his neighborhood for two years. Already an astute young businessman, T.J. told the Tampa Bay Times that he tested various locations and hours of operation before settling on 3-7 pm at Patricia Avenue and San Salvador Drive. A neighbor gave him permission to place a homemade sign in the grass and sell his sweet treats from Tupperware on a white card table:
T.J. is a big hit in the neighborhood, smiling and waving at passersby, and conversing with customers who stop for $1 cups of lemonade and 50-cent cookies. Per the Tampa Bay Times, he "sprints between his stand and the windows of paused drivers like a seasoned fast-food worker, scooping ice from a cooler into red plastic cups."
As someone who is a fan of cookies, lemonade, and ambitious youth, I think T.J.'s venture sounds fantastic.
Too bad one of his grouchy neighbors doesn't share my sentiments.
Doug Wilkey, 61, thinks that T.J.'s sweets stand is, well…not so sweet. He's emailed City Hall at least four times in the last two years to try to have the young man's "illegal business" shut down.
Here are some of his complaints:
"Please help me regain my quiet home and neighborhood."
"The city could possibly face repercussion in the event someone became ill from spoiled/contaminated food or drink sales."
"If this were a once a year event by a couple kids to earn a little money for a holiday or something, I would not have a problem with it. I am very worried about the value of my home, which is why I built in a residential area, not a business area."
Wilkey claimed that T.J.'s "illegal" business generates too much trash, noise, traffic, and illegal parking problems.
But T.J. said the longest line he's ever had was 5 people, and at least two neighbors have agreed to let customers park in their driveways.
Because of Wilkey's complaints about his friends being too noisy, T.J. now works alone.
Deputy Wayne Gross polled neighbors and found that they were fine with the 10 to 30 customers T.J. said he sees daily and were baffled that anyone complained.
"I had one when I was a little kid. We all did," said Vincent Titara, 24. "I think it's cute."
Dan Wright, a truck driver working on a project nearby, is a repeat customer.
"I tried the strawberry before and it's perfect," he told T.J., removing his hard hat and wiping his brow. "That's what it's about. He's willing to work."
I think T.J. is an impressive young man. I wish more kids shared his entrepreneurial spirit, drive, and ambition.
But, this article doesn't do him justice. Tampa Bay Times visited T.J. at his stand and interviewed him. I think you'll find him as remarkable as I do.
Pretty cool kid, isn't he?
Thankfully, city officials have no plans to shut down T.J.'s business:
"We're not in the business of trying to regulate kids like that; nor do we want to do any code enforcement like that," said Dunedin planning and development director Greg Rice. "We are not out there trying to put lemonade stands out of business."
That's refreshing to hear, because other children haven't been so lucky. Some have had their money-making endeavors shut down by bureaucratic bullies.
T.J. has the support of his community, aside from this one holdout…
Come on, Wilkey – lighten up. Hey, I have an idea. Go buy a cookie or two and a cup of lemonade from T.J. Sounds like delicious stuff, and you'll be encouraging one of our youth by showing him that hard work is appreciated and rewarded.