Interview by Steven MacKenzie
A. Allen, 60, has been a StreetWise vendor for around seven years. He sells at an L-Train station where he is constantly asked to give directions and change for ticket machines. He also helps train new vendors, teaching selling techniques and sharing his “work smarter, not harder” ethos.
My sweet home
Chicago is an interesting city; we offer a variety of different types of entertainment. We have some good food, we have a lot of museums, we have a lot of theatres and there is the Magnificent Mile. That’s where a lot of people from all over the world go shopping because you have all the brand name stores.
The best park
They host a lot of events in Millennium Park and most of them are free. For instance, during the summer they have the Blues Festival, the Jazz Festival and a lot of outdoor entertainment. The Bean is right across the street from Millennium Park. It’s official name is Cloud Gate, we just call it the Bean. People love the Bean. Every time you go there you’ll see a crowd of people taking pictures.
My favourite area
One of my favourite areas is the Hyde Park, by the lake. It’s a mixed neighbourhood with a lot of college students. Over there they have the Museum of Science and Industry. It’s huge and a very educational experience for adults and children. Some days it’s free and some days it costs so check that out before you go.
How to escape city life
The shoreline offers a lot of different boat opportunities to tour the lake. From my experience, when I was on the boat, they have music, food and some boats have entertainment – a person telling you architectural information about the buildings. The metro train can take you right out of the city. If you’ve never been to Evanston it’s a real nice place to visit, like a small Chicago, and they have a lot of things to offer.
What to eat
Giodano’s put Chicago on the map for pizza. The deep dish is really good, I recommend that if you come to Chicago. But my favourite place to eat is called Valois on E 53rd Street. They serve a buffet of soul food. The prices are good and the food is delicious. Obama has a house near there and this is the restaurant that our President goes to when he’s in town. If it’s good enough for the President, it’s good enough for me.
Best time of year
My favourite time of the year is spring and summer. The weather is better. Winter is terrible, you have look for inside entertainment unless you like to ice skate. Sometimes Chicago can get to 20 below zero and that is really cold with the wind chill factor.
Originally published in The Big Issue (UK)
Read more coverage of #VendorWeek 2019 here.