By S.E. Fleenor | Photo by Sarah Harvey
Nathanial Trotter is an artist, inventor, and entrepreneur. A warm, friendly person, he loves the Broncos, Denver, and the people who live here. He believes he has been blessed by God with “a personality to get along with people,” an attribute he uses daily to sell papers.
Born in Chicago, Nathanial grew up in Geary, Indiana. Geary is the home of Michael Jackson, a fact he relays with pride. One of nine siblings comprised of six sons and three daughters, Nathanial loved growing up with a big family. He speaks of them fondly, saying, “It was beautiful having a nice family.” Nathanial remains close to his surviving siblings; one brother and his parents have gone on to heaven.
While Nathanial looks upon his childhood home life with gratitude, Geary itself represents a violent place for him. In fact, when Nathanial was younger, the city had a billboard stating, “Geary: The number one murder capitol in America.” Once, Nathanial had a gun pulled on him, but when the assailant saw his face he recognized Nathanial. “Because of my friendship with so many people he put [the gun] back up.”
That’s really what defines Nathanial: everyone is his friend. He talks about the “beautiful people of Denver” as if they are each someone he knows, loves, and remembers. He finds that people open up to him easily, wanting to share about their families, their hardships, and their hopes. He enjoys seeing the same people time and again and watching their kids grow up before his eyes.
Nathanial found the Denver VOICE when Sam’s Club closed all its demonstration departments across the country, leaving him jobless. His brother-in-law suggested he consider working as a vendor. After another man told him how easy it was to get set up, Nathanial went to the office, completed the orientation, and got straight to work on the 16th Street Mall.
When he was first starting out, things were hard. Some people would say cruel things or ignore him. Undeterred, Nathanial persevered and has been selling papers for more than four years. People still ignore him sometimes, but he doesn’t let it get to him. Nathanial has sold his art and poetry on the street before, so he knows the keys to being successful.
“You got to be patient,” said Nathanial. “You’ve got to be…loud enough for them to hear you or they’re gonna pass you by anyway.”
Selling the paper provides steady income for Nathanial, while also allowing the freedom and flexibility he craves. He enjoys being his own boss. “Here, if you don’t want to go to work, you don’t have to go to work. You can take a break when you want to. You can go home when you want to.” That flexibility allows Nathanial to continue inventing and creating art.
Nathanial’s inventions include the sparking basketball net and sparking shoes, both of which he presented on the “Why Didn’t I Think of That?” program that aired in the ealy 90s. Using a similar concept to that of “Shark Tank,” this program flew Nathanial to L.A. to present his inventions, a point of pride for Nathanial. He continues to invent and is currently working on a couple inventions that he isn’t quite ready to discuss. When asked where his ideas come from, Nathanial will say that every good thing comes from God and that God has supplied him with visions and ideas. In addition to his inventions, Nathanial also creates Broncos fan art, which he hopes to have hung along Colfax.
If you walk the stretch from Glenarm Street to Stout Street along the 16th Street Mall, you’ll probably see Nathanial. You’ll recognize him because he’ll be one of the vendors sharing a smile and some time with strangers-turned-friends. He’ll be out there selling papers and making friends.
“I consider downtown Denver my office,” said Nathanial. “Bravo to [Denver for] finally getting some nice, bright lights” downtown for the holiday season.
This time of year, his office really glows. ■