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Robert Qualls: A Bright Smile in Wrigleyville

Tue, Nov 18, 2014

StreetWise vendor Robert QuallsLook for Robert in front of the Starbucks at Southport and Roscoe.

What do you think about the neighborhood you work in, Wrigleyville?
I lived there before, about 25 years ago, in that general area. So the Wrigleyville neighborhood I’m familiar with. Customers are very welcoming.

What brought you to StreetWise?
The first time [in 1993] I was mostly envious of my friend walking around with money in his pocket, and I was broke. The second time [in 2006], I was convinced by another person that I know … Since I know how to sell the magazine, and I was in need of money, I went back to StreetWise for the second time, to establish myself, for some income.

Do you have a business plan for selling your magazines?
It just kind of grew on me. At first I was a little quiet, and then one of my favorite customers now said, “You need to speak up and say something.” So I started introducing myself and saying, “good morning.” And after people get their first sip of coffee they’re more open to talk. And that kind of opened the door for me, after I started saying good morning to people. After their first sip of coffee, they say good morning back, and they are calm and not grouchy. I just came to grow on people. Being a good salesperson has made me last so long at one location.

What else have you learned on the job?
I reinvented myself … I had a substance abuse problem during part of my life, and I got away from being normal. Then with StreetWise, it made me go back to normal. I stopped doing things I used to do. I don’t do drugs anymore, and I drink only occasionally. It’s not an option anymore to be high. It’s nonexistent. StreetWise got me grounded, being a normal, social, sober person. It’s paying off so far. It’s got me back to where I need to be.

What are some of your future goals?
I’ve been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. There’s still no cure for it, so my long-term goal is just to live as long as I can. And hopefully I have a grandkid someday.

So you have children?
I have three children, two boys and a girl.

What do you like to do for fun?
I used to like to play sports … and I like to go to sporting events. I like baseball games and basketball games. I like to shoot pool. I like to bowl.

Do you have a favorite Chicago sports team?
My favorite team is the Cubs. That’s my favorite team. I like all Chicago teams. Whoever is in season, that’s whose gear I’ll be wearing, except for the White Sox. Not that I don’t like them, I just don’t wear their stuff.

You’re in the Wrigleyville neighborhood, so you have to be a Cubs fan, right?
Well, it helps. It helps with sales.

Anything else you want to add?
You see, a few years ago, as I was getting myself together and establishing myself at the corner of Roscoe and Southport, one customer of mine helped me … she made it possible for me to get dentures because my teeth were bad. Since then I have had dentures, and I have a great smile, people say. I want to thank all of my customers and the community for helping me have a nice smile and a good attitude. I thank my customers for welcoming me and helping me out. And one more thing, I want to say “Happy Holidays” to all of my customers.

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