Sells in front of Starbucks on North Avenue and Wells in Old Town
Been there for the last 8 years.
How did you get started with StreetWise.
Actually I got started maybe about 15 years ago off and on. That’s when I was hooked up on drugs and that was another way to feed my habit … I came back [clean] in August 2005.
Tell me about your experience selling StreetWise in Old Town.
You see so many people every day … and I began to build relationships, not only with the people, but with the Starbucks employees … After awhile I developed a trust, and now it’s been history. I’ve been there nine years, and I’ve seen women pregnant. Now their kids are seven, eight years old. I just went to one of their kids’ soccer games. With the relationship we’ve developed, we’re friends now … Going up there, it’s almost therapeutic for me. I’m from the South Side … I get a calmer spirit and everything. On the South Side I got to be on my toes all the time. There’s nothing like Old Town. There’s nothing like that Starbucks. The people come, and it’s kind of like a Starbucks “Cheers” … I’ve learned how the people value their neighborhood, how they really value their neighborhood.
What have you learned from being a salesman?
Well, my model is the sale doesn’t start till they say, no. There’s people that have passed me by for years, but I am cordial at all times, whether they buy a paper or not. And now they are some of my best customers. I try to be cordial with everyone because some people bless me financially constantly, and some people walk past me with a frown. I had a lady walk past me for years with a frown, and then I see her with her husband, and this guy blessed me tremendously. If I had been negative with her, it probably would have gotten back to me.
Tell me about a challenge in your past and how you were able to overcome it.
Overcoming drugs. Previous to that I started drinking. I started drinking around 12. I spent more than 40 years of my life with drugs. It took me to the bottom. Now I’m mentally, spiritually and physically in a good spot right now. Once upon a time, nine years ago, I thought suicide was a good idea. Now I’ve overcome that … I go into grammar schools now and talk about gangs and drugs.
Tell me about your family.
I have three kids, one daughter and two sons. Even when I was off into drugs, I always played a part in their life because I didn’t want them to go the road I went. My daughter is going to be a surgeon. I’m going to be the dumbest Martin. I’ve made all the mistakes for them. I kept my kids out of gangs. I’m very proud of all of them. My youngest son is going to be a veterinarian. My oldest son, he went to the military and did four years. Now he’s going to take the fireman test.
What are your future goals?
I do a little dog walking. In Old Town, everyone has dogs. That’s another thing that developed from trust with the people. Some people don’t even come to that Starbucks unless I’m there because they have their dogs and they want someone to watch their dogs. I know more dogs than people! Like I said, my son is going to be a veterinarian, and I really want to get off into that field. ‘Sam and Sam.’ [His son is named after him.]
Is there anything else you want to add?
I’m very heavy into Alcoholics Anonymous, and I just had a poem put in the AA Grapevine. I’d like to share my poem:
I walked into the fellowship with a problem
I thought was beyond solving,
So I got down on my knees to pray,
And I asked God to help me with my stay.
After being there for awhile,
I began to feel like a child,
Living and learning things I never knew,
My self esteem suddenly grew.
I’ve always considered myself real slick,
But then I realized I was sick.
In the beginning I felt shame,
But I’ve come to realize my life is not a game.
Because today my life is on the right track.
For that, I’ll keep coming back.