William Brown is soft-spoken; his opinion on any given matter is typically expressed with gentle clarity and, invariably, a smile. When asked if he takes part in any hobbies outside of Real Change, William replied, with conviction, “Yeah, sleep.”
After taking 10 years off of work to travel, William “decided Seattle would be the place.” Since that day in 1991 when William began building a life in Seattle, the city has endured a great deal of change. And whether they’ve been here their whole lives, a few years or just a couple of weeks, Seattle residents have likely come to form an opinion on the rapid growth of the city. William’s is, on the surface, simple and sweet: “As long as it don’t affect my life, I’m cool with that.”
William became a Real Change vendor in 2008. Since then William has purchased over 9,000 issues to sell. Often breezing through the office near closing time, sporting a cap that’s always trendy but never identical to the former, William sells the paper in the afternoons at Trader Joe’s in West Seattle. He began making his daily trip west in early January, and has since been quite taken with the community there.
“It’s different than Downtown Seattle,” says William on the friendly, comfortable feel of the neighborhood. “One lady had stopped, gave me kiss, then gave me $20, then told me she liked my style.”
William can count on his regulars. They always come through for him, and that makes a world of a difference when working in sales.
“I have always looked at people the same way I look at them now: Everybody ain’t always gonna be the same.” William certainly doesn’t expect everyone who walks by to cop a paper. He welcomes — after an attempt to make the sale, of course — the reality that some folks consider the paper to be either too much or too little of one thing or another. But if one thing will always be the same, it’s William’s brightening humor and spirit that shines through in conversation basic as his sales pitch. “Sometimes I’ll be comical with the customers. ‘Oh, how ya doin’ miss? I knew you was comin’ so I saved one for you.’”
William is glad he wandered around the corner from his apartment back in 2008 to complete orientation and become a Real Change vendor at our original office in Belltown. “Real Change gave me a lot of freedom. I don’t really have to worry about anything, you know? I’m my own boss. I know I don’t have to worry about being fired,” something that’s more likely in William’s former line of work, construction.
Because William’s customers in West Seattle have been so reliable, much of the stress that comes with selling the paper has been alleviated. Rejection and walking away with nothing, among other things, can be disheartening. Especially when you’re using the money to pay rent, says William. “You’ve gotta have tough skin.”
William stuck with quick, relaxed responses throughout the interview. But in closing, a dear, modest life goal of William’s was shared: “I’d really like to buy a truck and start a small business: attic and basement cleaning.” Close to retirement age, William admits that a goal like this becomes more and more difficult to attain.
Akin to William’s dry wit and casual manner, he was quickly made tired by such questions. To close out the interview, when asked if he had anything more to share with readers, William replied with a contagiously charming, “No, Gretchen, I just wanna go.”
William is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles. Check out the full June 13 - June 19 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.