WEB EXCLUSIVE: Local vendors battle for the right to sell pasta

Two vendors stationed outside the Marvin Center are locked in a dispute over the right to sell pasta, competing for the business of GW customers.

Vendor John Reidder said he offered a man who calls himself “Mr. Negra” the opportunity to sell pasta during the summer months while he was working at another location. Reidder said the agreement was only for the summer and is angry that Negra, who used to only sell expresso, continues to sell pasta now that the school year has begun.

Reidder claims a breach of agreement, but Negra cites the principles of capitalism to defend his continued pasta sales.

Negra said he sells spaghetti, which is different from the penne pasta Reidder sells, and he offered to sell pasta only after 4 p.m., Reidder’s usual closing time. Reidder said Negra made the offer.

Negra said Reidder is trying to monopolize the pasta market.

“When he came back, he asked me to stop, but I bought equipment and I can’t just throw it away,” Negra said.

The pasta cart in front of Kogan Plaza has been operated by various owners since 1992, and was recently purchased by the current owner and operator, Reidder. Reidder said his cart was the only cart that sold pasta on H Street for the past decade until he made a “friendly” agreement with Negra.

Reidder said Negra has made personal, verbal threats to him. Both vendors said they do not want to create an uncomfortable environment because they fear police involvement.

“If (the police) start having trouble, they’ll just send vendors out of here, and I don’t want that. I’d like to settle this in a business atmosphere,” Reidder said.

Uninterested in a complicated legal battle that could possibly cause the eviction of both vendors from their H Street locations, Reidder decided to up the stakes last week by opening his own latte vending cart last week to compete with Negra’s espresso.

Reidder is giving the latte away for free to increase his pasta business, he said. He goes in between his pasta and latte carts, closing one so he can work out of the other cart.

“I can’t just sit back and let him pick off pastas 20 feet away,” Reidder said. “I look out of the corner of my eye and see pasta going out and think that’s a customer that I should’ve had.”

Although both vendors have their own array of loyal customers, senior Phil Beyer said, “I see no reason to fight about it. They both offer slightly different services, so what if they both have pasta?”

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