Back when the Smith Tower was the highest building in what was then a backwater port, Real Change's first (and maybe only) indoor vendor, Morrie, was living and working in his native Seattle.
His has been a life of work. He has done his share of odd jobs -- at the University of Washington, a brief stint at a cab company, another as a hay bailer in Eastern Washington -- but Morrie is first and foremost a salesman.
To hear Morrie talk, you might mistake him for giving a lesson in American locution; in an oddly suave way, Morrie chomps off the ends of his words with a set of broad, pearl-white teeth; the tenor of his voice is always brightly resonant. He is, in short, the backslapping, hand-shaking, consummate salesman. I think Morrie could sell shoes to a man with no legs.
"You really need a lot of people skills," says Morrie. "You have to take 'no' for an answer, and then you have to figure out how to turn that 'no' into a 'yes.'"
Morrie has no set corner, parking lot, or sidewalk at which he sells. But what Morrie does have are about 30 or 40 businesses who expect him to come around once a week. Hotels, motels, gas stations, and even a mechanic buy the paper from Morrie, exchange news of husbands, wives, daughters and sons, and then send him on his way. Though his approach is unorthodox, something seems to be working.
Real Change, says Morrie, has brought him closer to customers who under most circumstances he would not have contact with.
And, he says, he's proud of what he sells.
"It's rare in this day that a product is inexpensive -- [Real Change] has shown me that a dollar really adds up," he says.
Morrie tells his customers, "Thank you for buying and supporting the paper."