New StreetWise Vendor Morris Banks is changing the morning routine of Chicago’s South Side commuters by tapping into one of the publication’s least canvassed areas: the CTA Red Line terminus at 95th Street on the Dan Ryan.
There are few StreetWise vendors on the far South Side and Banks is using this to his advantage by targeting new readers who he knows are coming from all different areas in and out of Chicago to get to work.
“I know that there is a nice crowd of people that come from the South Side,” Banks said. “It’s not just the city people, but people that come from the suburbs who come through 95th to get to their jobs downtown.”
Having grown up in the Roseland area, Banks said he knows the city pretty well, and wanted to sell in a nearby place.
“In orientation we talk about what consists of a good location,” said Greg Pritchett, director of vendor services. “The main goal was to find a spot that people travel to everyday around the same time—95th and the Dan Ryan.”
Essentially, Banks has identified a niche market on Chicago’s South Side, where very few vendors are located, in a place that is not always accessible. Vendors cannot sell on CTA buses or trains but the terminal has covered space connecting all forms of transportation.
“He’s catching them on the way to train—either between the bus and the train, or before they get on. I think it’s a very good, innovative, creative business strategy,” said Pritchett.
Banks, who came upon StreetWise after meeting a vendor on the street, said that the best part about the job is being able to make an income without having to resort to criminal activity. With no job and little to no money in his pocket, Banks looked for small jobs before coming to StreetWise, but nothing was consistent.
“When you come to StreetWise, they give you the opportunity to make a buck or two; that kind of eases the pain.”
According to Banks, God had different plans for him than going to jail. When speaking about the opportunities he has been given to make a living, he attributes his success to God, stating that everything he has been dealt – from homelessness, to financial struggles, to a consistent paycheck – has been part of God’s plan for him.
Regardless of the reason, Pritchett is proud of the progress he has made.
“I’m very proud of Mr. Banks. I think he is going to do well on the South Side,” he said.
As for the future, Banks is hopeful.
“Half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf of bread,” he said. “You start eating with a half a loaf until things get better; if you ain’t got no loaf, you’re in trouble.”
StreetWise Editorial Intern