Published September 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 8
by Gretchen Crowe
“You just might be screwed, Denver’s street paper just closed up—you can’t move there!” said a fellow Portland vendor to Richard Wolfe around 2006, as he made plans to move to Denver.
Thoughtful and gentle, Richard stands uncomfortably as I snap his picture for the September Vendor Profile. He is part of an emerging group of vendors that don’t just claim one paper or one city, but many. These are vendors that tour the country, mapping their adventures through cities with street papers—sometimes they hop locations, but some, like Richard, use the papers to help create a new home.
Richard has vended in Chicago, Seattle, Portland and has been a vendor in Denver for over a year. His personal interest in studying psychology certainly makes his job intriguing. When asked if the climate of vending varies geographically, Richard replied, “absolutely!” Denver residents will only talk in passing about the concept of the paper, while Portland natives aren’t afraid to pick up the whole conversation. Seattle’s multitudes of tourists are ripe to ignore vendors, and Chicago’s big city mentality leaves vendors open for frequent off-hand comments. But all in all, “the best part of the papers is helping poor people get on their feet. Vending used to be my secondary means to make money after having a job, but now it’s my primary. One thing I can tell you is I do best with common people. Too rich or too poor and I don’t do as well. I like the common person.”
Born in Danville, IL into a coal mining family, Richard smiled as he reminisced on his life story. “And you know what I’m looking forward to now?!” Saving up for a 55-gallon aquarium for his new apartment.