Our Vendors 

Sylvester Quast

Mon, May 11, 2015

SylvesterQuastWhere did you grow up?
Chicago, all of my life. I spent the most formative years, from seven to 19, in Lincoln Park. The building I grew up in is one of the few buildings that is still standing, because everything else has been torn down around there.

What brought you to StreetWise?
I got a little tired of doing flyer jobs, and it was kind of one of those destiny deals. I wanted to learn more about life. In a roundabout way, I didn’t realize it at the time, I wanted to become a StreetWise vendor to learn more about people in general. I think the journey is more important than the destination. It has been enriching, maddening … everything there is in life! It is a weird time, with technology being where it is, and we’re standing in the street watching people walk and not pay any attention to their surroundings like little zombies. I want to make a little PSA, “Stay alert, don’t get hurt!” It has been an adventure, that’s for sure. I don’t know how many vendors go into StreetWise thinking they are just going to make money and that’s it. I guess that was my original intention, but there turned out to be more to it. It’s like the song by John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy,” “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

How long have you been selling StreetWise?
Since November 19, 2003.

Where do you sell StreetWise?
The Market Place at Diversey and Hampton. It’s in Lakeview. Unfortunately, it looks like the store is closing, by Christmas time or next year.

Where will you go after that? Will you stay in the same spot?
We’ll see. It’s hard finding a new spot. There is legal stuff going on too. They are trying to put a condo there, but the neighbors are trying to fight it. I’ll try to stay a vendor as long as possible, but I may go down with the store. My fortunes seem to be turning around at the same time the store is going down, which is really ironic. I’ve been there since May of 2009.

Do you have any strategies for selling the magazine?
I keep it simple. When I started I had this big rap, but most people ignored it. I had to adapt and chill. I think people appreciate it more when you don’t say much.

Is there anything about that neighborhood that you wouldn’t know if you were not a vendor?
It has beautiful parks around there. And there is a wide variety of people. Some very real people. I used to be a vendor at Armitage and Sheffield, and that area is so yuppified! It was the DePaul crowd and I felt like a stranger in a strange land.

What do you like most about Chicago?
It used to be the architecture, but that is becoming a lost cause. Gentrification has led to a lot of these older buildings being torn down. I am more interested in the residential buildings than the skyscrapers and such. What attracted me to Chicago’s history is how the city was built up after the fire. I think this city is bulletproof, but I wonder if gentrification will kill its legacy. Everything is condos now, and they look like Transformers! Every building that is torn down is less housing for people like us. Not everybody has money for a condo. I am really concerned for Chicago’s future regarding housing.

I heard that you have other endeavors outside of StreetWise. Tell me about those.
I have cat sitting. I may start volunteering with cats too. Do you know the old saying, “Those that love their job never work a day in their lives?” With cats, that is what it is for me. I love cats and I have been around them all my life, so it doesn’t even matter if I am being paid. I just bought a computer, and I want to start blogging too. I plan on writing about everything, even taboo stuff. In this politically correct environment, some one has to admit that the Emperor has no clothes! I would like to revive freedom of speech, because nowadays, USA seems to stand for U Should Apologize! I am also starting to take guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Music. As it turns out, one of the guys who works there is the husband of one of the ladies that I know at the Lincoln Park Library, Mary Jo. It’s a small world!

What do you do for fun, when you are not blogging or cat sitting or selling StreetWise?
I like watching soap operas on YouTube! Everything on YouTube! I like putting together my “top 100” lists. Right now I am putting together my favorite love songs of all time. The art of the love song is dying nowadays. it’s all “Shorty got big keister!”

Is there anything else you want to say?
To those that have taken time to converse with me, thank you. And for those out there who are weary of StreetWise vendors, take your time and get to know them. Like the Depeche Mode song goes, “People are People.”

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