I read this story on Huffington Post about Charles Mysak and his curbside bookselling business. The video embedded with the article is from a student filmmaker who was fulfilling a documentary assignment for class so you need to keep that in mind when watching it. (Also an advisory for some salty language here and there!)

The first part of the video and Charles story is what I’m most interested in. (The story of his law career and what brought him to this point in his life is interesting, but not for this particular subject.)

Here are a few facts about the business side of his story.

Charles pays the parking meter $36 dollars in quarters each morning to keep his car parked on a busy New York City street. He admits in the video that after a drive from his home in New Jersey, it takes him around 4 hours to set up. If he arrives around 6:15, (which is what he says in the video) that means he isn’t open for business until 10:30 am or so. We can assume that he stays open until at least 6:00 pm or possibly later. Then another 4 hours to repack the books and magazines back into his car and drive back home.

He has to battle the birds in the trees over his stand, the dogs in the street who do their business sometimes to the destruction of books he needs to sell to stay in business. He has to survive not only the cold of winter but the rain of spring and the heat of summer.  He has to battle parking tickets, disgruntled flower planters and any number of other various obstacles.

And he’s been doing this for 11 years now.

11 years.

My first question after reading this was why?  How much profit can he really be seeing with this type of business model?

On the plus side, his costs are probably super low.  Let’s call the $36 dollars “rent”. That’s $1,080 a month (approximately) without any taxes, insurance or utilities. In downtown NYC. I would assume he gets his books from library sales or wholesalers. His next highest costs would have to be the gas to and from his “shop”. But unless I’m missing something. That’s it.

So is he a small business? Or, as some of the comments suggest, is he a vagrant who has found a way around paying taxes?

Would you have a different opinion of him if he was standing beside a food cart selling hot dogs?