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Gene Vock: Uplifting Chicago, one smile at a time

Mon, Nov 25, 2013

Gene VockHow did you find out about StreetWise?
My brother, Fred Vock! He’s been at StreetWise for a long time. [I currently vend at] the Monroe Street Bridge on Monroe and Wacker. [I’ve been a vendor] on and off since 2010 and this is my third time around.And my experience has been great and I have a lot of returning customers and I want to thank each and every one of them.

How do you retain your customers and keep them coming back?
It’s saying, “StreetWise!” and “Have a great day!” and “Enjoy your day!” and having a smile on my face that keeps them coming back. When customers first come up that bridge [where I sell my magazines], they look sad and then all of a sudden, they turn around and they are smiling again.

How has StreetWise impacted you?
[It has given me] an income. Believe it or not, I ran my own business at one time. Plus, I used to work for the Sun Times for 25 years. To me, StreetWise is a business and a way for me to be an entrepreneur. You just have to have the positive attitude, get the right people, make everybody happy and you have to be positive with the people.

What are some of the goals that you are working towards, short- and long-term?
Short-term, basically, I’d really just like get myself a [more permanent] place to live. Long-term, I currently have a pacemaker, suffer from colon cancer, a bad hip, a bad back and everything… I don’t know how long I’m going to live with this pacemaker in me. But eventually I would just like to make everyone happy and make sure that they are happy in life and they make sure they don’t get in the same situation I’m in right now. I’m always telling customers to relax and take it easy, because most health issues result from stress.

What has been the greatest challenge in your life?
My greatest challenge is living with my health. I’m lucky to be alive, just put it that way.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
There’s so much stuff that I can think of… The best advice, I guess, was to stay out of trouble, be nice to everybody and to stay way from drugs and alcohol. Those are the things that I follow. Another was “honesty is the best policy,” which is why I hate scammers.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
By being honest and focusing on selling the magazine and getting the StreetWise news out there hopefully the customers can know what we are here for and can continue to support the StreetWise magazine. I would like to thank my boss and mentor Greg for his support and I’d also like to thank Jim, the executive director of this StreetWise non-profit. I’d like to thank the customers that buy my magazine help support StreetWise and myself. StreetWise has the best program around for every need like housing, job training, computer training, food programs, etc. I also thank StreetWise for my profile for the third time around.

By Kayla Kiely
StreetWise Contributor

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