IN HIS SIX BY NINE DWELLING on Ellis Street, Sammy S’mores prepares the tools of his trade: hot plate, extra fuel canisters, and most importantly, his mallow bags - unmarked plastic bags filled to bursting with the marshmallows that will soon become S’mores. As the sun begins to rise over the Tenderloin, Sammy is anxious to get out into the streets and start doing business. Everyone around here knows him by name. “‘Sup, S’mores,” nods a man in the shadows of his hotel’s lobby. Sammy does not respond, too focused on the task at hand.
AS RECENTLY AS 2003, there were three or more S’mores men on this block alone. Another operated near the Brown Jug, keeping its patrons deep in wet, sweet S’mores at any given hour. Now there is only Sammy. At his age, he says, he doesn’t know how much longer he can keep doing this. The way he sees it, he is providing a service. ”Yo, S’mores,” says a man selling phone chargers on Larkin. Sammy hurries over and soon S’mores are being traded for a prepaid phone card. Sammy moves on. He has to keep moving. ”The cops around here don’t give me any trouble,” he says, fidgeting. Soon, that is about to change.
THE CITY IS NOW TRYING to clandestinely cram through a new ruling that would aim to tamp the flow of S’mores in this neighborhood. For Sammy, being required to purchase a license would mean the end of his business. ”No S’mores, no good,” he says, shaking his head. He sits in the afternoon sun of his apartment’s small window, surrounded by scattered mallow bags, graham cracker crumbles, stacks of careworn Harlequin romance novels with pages marked, and everywhere, ashes from S’mores.