Our Vendors: Sera Allen (StreetWise, Chicago, USA)

Interview by Dave Hamilton, for StreetWise

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the state of Mississippi, in Jackson.

What brought you to Chicago then?
I came here to live with my aunt and uncle. They raised me, I was about 14 when I moved here.

What brought you to StreetWise?
I have some mobility issues, and a bit of a financial crisis. I’m still undergoing that! It seems to never end. I had lost my job, it wasn’t a match for me, and I needed some quick money. I looked online and thought that StreetWise was it! I used to work for the government, I did commercial claims.

How long have you been selling StreetWise?
I have been here since 2012.

Where do you sell StreetWise?
The Trader Joe’s at Diversey, Clark, and Broadway. 667 W. Diversey Parkway. I usually am there between 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Sometimes I work from noon to 10:30 p.m., thats a long day! I was originally at the Dominick’s at 6600 N. Broadway, it closed and is now a Whole Foods. I liked it up there. You know, whenever a Whole Foods moves in, that means the neighborhood is changing.

Do you have any strategies for selling the magazine?
I look at the customers, I look at the area, and I try to jive with them. I try to be sincere and have a listening ear.

Tell me about Lincoln Park.
I feel safe, I don’t feel 100% safe anywhere, but pretty safe there. I like it because it is so diverse. It is all kinds of people.

What do you like most about Chicago?
The busyness. All of the activities, the assortment of festivals. I like the entertainment industry and I love seeing all of the people! I love people!

Is there anything that you have learned on the job at StreetWise?
I have learned to let it be. Also, time and sticking to a schedule.

What are your future goals?
I would like to help addicts and alcoholics, I know it will be a process. Like so many others, I had it so hard when I had some personal problems. I acquired a movement disorder, I acquired a substance abuse addiction. I had a 18 year run with crack abuse and I want to help others. I know that I will not be able to cure them all, but I want to do whatever is possible.

What do you do for fun?
I have such a loaded schedule, I can’t do anything for fun! I need to switch my schedule around so I have some time for me.

Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
I would like them to know that I really, really appreciate my customers, it gives me an opportunity to see another side of the world. They have made me feel wanted, when I was otherwise unwanted.

INSP publishes an international vendor story every week. Come back next Wednesday to read another story from one of the thousands of inspirational men and women who sell street papers.