Would You Buy a PB&J Sandwich Off the Street?

Assorted Stuff outside Aron's Midtown NYC
If borekas and egg rolls, why not PB&J Sandwiches!?

If you thought the whole “law student couldn’t get a job so opens a cupcake truck” story was crazy… what about this one?  Got this email in the old ML inbox the other day:

Hi Zach,

I’ve hatched an idea due to extended unemployment, and I thought you’d be the best qualified to tell me if it is feasible or not. During my days of working in Midtown your site was a bible.

It’s pretty simple: set up a small table on a busy corner and sell peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from a cooler for a few bucks. That’s more than the cost of making them, so I’d pull a profit. And it’s cheaper than other lunch options, and who doesn’t like PB&J?

But what about a vendor’s license?

Part of me thinks that there’s probably some vendor’s license required, and Health Department etc. But another part of me thinks that it’s just like a kid setting up a lemonade stand, and that’s perfectly legal. I’ve asked several friends for their thoughts but they have no idea, and I don’t want to be shooed away/ ticketed by the cops and end up with 20 extra sandwiches on my hands.

Do you have any thoughts as to the legality/feasibility of this endeavor? I’d really appreciate it. If it gets off the ground, the first sandwich is yours, complementary of course.

Many thanks,
Dan M.

Sounds like a foolproof scheme to me! Are times really that tough? You’d probably have to sell a lot of sandwiches to make a living. Perhaps you should consider knock of scarves and handbags as well? I suppose if this lady can sell homemade Ecuadorian food out of a grocery cart on 46th Street, I guess you could get by selling PB&J.

Lunchers, what do you think of the “feasibility of this endeavor?”


  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Hey Dan, with all that time on your hands you should probably:

    1. learn to use search engines
    2. learn the difference between complementary and complimentary

    PS. http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/permit/mfv_license_appl.pdf

  • Well, there’s a Peanut Butter & Co. shop in the W. Village. If they can get away with $6-7+ sandwiches, I’m sure someone else could. I probably wouldn’t buy either though, store or cart.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Sorry, the foul weather is making me grumpy.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    You’d have to sell them for less than $2, which is what some midtown deli’s charge for similar fare (PB&J on a English muffin, for example).

    So unless you’re willing to spend time making the sandwich, transporting, and evading the po-po — just to eek out maybe $1 – $1.50 per sandwich — you mind as well just sign up to work for Cha-Cha.com…

  • Really? I have to say, are there that many people who will buy a sandwich from a person with a table on the street corner? Even a well-dressed, clean person?

    I think just for credibility you’d need some sort of cart or stand. After that, though, $2.50 for a sandwich (that way you get the quarters as your “tip” sometimes) that you can make for about 50 cents, in a variety of jellies — and be sure to use the high-end PB — you could sell, what, 50? for $100 profit minimum per 3-hour day, less vendor’s license and cart cost.

    Add in a cooler full of sodas at 50 cents profit per can, and I could see that working, after you are able to double your sandwich-selling ability, if a modest living is all you’re asking for.

  • I say no, because PB&J is 1) very easy to make 2) very fast to make 3) consists of ingredients that are readily available and 4) does not require heating/chilling or special preparation so I see no benefit in buying it on the street. I can easily buy my own ingredients and assemble this sandwich myself. you’d have to be able to significantly differentiate your product from what I can create on my own in order to get me to buy it. Though … people said this about the feasibility of bottled water (what! I can get it free from the tap!) or starbucks… but each of these examples confers an advantage to the purchaser over what they can prepare themselves.

  • Dear Dan M.,

    Your views intrigue me. I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    Very truly yours,

  • I dunno— I did quite well selling grilled cheese on the Grateful Dead tours in the 90s… but then my needs might have been less then they are now….

  • oh man – if there was a grilled cheese cart, i’d be all over that

  • You’d be run off by mad Halal guy trying to behead you.


  • Yeah I’ve been known to eat some PB&J in my life, but this is only when (like today) I am SO BROKE that I open up my fridge and take stock of what I can bring for lunch and am left with only a childhood staple as a brown bag possibility. In short: If I am eating PB&J, that means I have no more money to pay someone for a sandwich.

    On the other hand if you offer to sell me a grilled cheese when I am stoned out of my mind, odds are I will shell out however many dollars require.

  • I would also be all over grilled cheese. See, grilled cheese has to be prepared and I can’t do this in my cube… sometimes I am so desperate for a fix that I have to settle for those packs of Lance grilled cheese crackers!


  • I’ve got a better idea. Sell a baggie with sealed jars of PB, J, a loaf of Wonder and a plastic knife.

    Higher margin, enough food for a week, better value for the customer, less labor, less sanitary issues.

    Copyright, wayne, 2009 – I get a piece of the action

  • hahaha @Rudy

  • Having married an American…i once asked her to make me a PB&J…..no wonder you keep shooting each other.

    The twins love them tho…eat them watching Sex and the City…….explaining Tea bagging was a little tricky.

  • Wayne’s package idea sounds like a survival kit. Don’t forget to throw in the lighter and roll papers. Haha.

  • Tony “the Dragon” Dragonas might need a new apprentice. Ask him for a job.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    @ Apikoros18:

    HAHAHA….I was at the Jones Beach Phish shows this past weekend and not much has changed. Heady grilled cheese still rules the lot! Nothing like a sandwich made by a dreadlocked wook to ease into the summer months.

  • In my Opinion, Yes and No.
    I would buy a PB&J off of someone if it has more than what I can expect to get at home. Like Spicy PB and Chicken Sammie… PB Fluff and a banana… etc. and it would have to be made to order (i hate soggy pb and js)
    I would not buy a sammie from a guy standing on the corner with a cooler of sandwiches.
    What if you made “lunch bags” with a sammie, a side (piece of fruit/chips) and a drink? that might be worth a shot…

  • I hope you were planning on making your own jelly. No midtown luncher would buy a regular pb&j sandwich off the street. Maybe if you used a jam to make us feel fancy (strawberry rhubarb, fig) and deep fried it we might be tempted.

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.