Paulette Bade has an infectiously positive attitude. When I arrive to meet her, just past 8 a.m. on a chilly Monday morning, she's already been selling the paper for over an hour. We can see our breath and the sidewalk where she's selling is mostly quiet, but Paulette is all smiles. When she sees me, she exclaims that it's so cold this morning she probably wouldn't have shown up if she were me. I find it hard to believe; Paulette always shows up, 7 a.m., six days a week, without fail. She is happy to be selling a paper she believes in, talking with customers she knows and cares about, and saving money for her future.
Paulette has been selling Real Change outside the Whole Foods store at 64th and Roosevelt since the start of the new year, moving recently from her previous location at the QFC down the road. Luckily, staying in the same neighborhood, she's been able to maintain a lot of her same customers -- people who still stop by to visit with their favorite vendor and buy a paper once a week.
When she started selling the paper -- in 1999, incredibly -- it was only to make some extra cash. Her ambition soon swelled, though, and she now sells more than 300 papers each month. Starting out, Paulette had been homeless for close to eight months, staying in a local DESC shelter. She eventually moved into Nickelsville, the only place that would let her keep her two cats and where she met her current boyfriend. The four of them have since moved into an apartment near the store.
"Now I want to put money in the bank. I want to do better for myself," she tells me. Paulette has been saving up her earnings from selling the paper in hopes of moving into a better home, somewhere where they can have more space and the two kitties can roam around.
As we talk, customers leaving the store or walking by greet Paulette like an old friend. They know her well, and she knows them. She points out customers to me, telling me who writes poetry and who buys the paper for the crossword puzzles. She loves this part of the job, even with the uncertainty that sometimes comes along with it.
"You never know from one day to the next how many you're going to sell or how much you're going to make," she says. But even on slow days she powers through, reading the new issue each week, trying both to know her product and her community.
When I ask what her customers outside of Whole Foods mean to her, she is flushed with joy.
"I'm thankful to all my customers. I appreciate them just stopping by and saying 'Hi.' Their smiles make my day, everyday."