By Ann-Derrick Gaillot, Contributing Writer
One of the first things Wayne Moore tells me upon our meeting is how pleasant his vendor spot is in front of the Starbucks at Northwest 21st Avenue and Lovejoy. “It’s got outdoor heaters and an overhang for when it rains. It’s nice.” Despite these features, Wayne is still warmly dressed, prepared for cold winds, rain showers or both. He is bundled up in layers and his white hair curls out from underneath a dark beanie covered by a waterproof hat. Being a Portland native, Wayne is used to the unpredictable weather.
Several times during our conversation Wayne stops to greet passersby as they enter and exit the coffee shop. Once a young lady dressed in scrubs smiles and waves to Wayne, who responds straightaway with a hearty “Good Morning!” He turns to me and says, “That’s why I do this, for smiles like those.”
Wayne commits himself to selling Street Roots seven days a week as a way of helping cover his rent and food costs; however, he views his job more as a public service than a sales position. “The way I see it,” he says, “I’m getting paid to brighten up people’s days.” And brighten up people’s days he does. The commuters rushing past, hands in their pockets, headphones plugged in their ears, are lost in that familiar mindless hustle to quickly get where they are headed. Yet somehow Wayne manages to snap people out of it long enough to greet him or buy a copy of the paper. Blank and serious faces melt away as Wayne reaches out with a polite grin or a “Hello.”
Wayne especially brightens up whenever he sees one of his, what he calls, “regulars,” of which he seems to have many. But rarer are those regulars who address Wayne by name. “Some people know my name, but some people, we know each other by face. It’s nice when they take the time to learn my name though. That’s why I try to wear this,” he says, showing off his Street Roots vendor badge.
Although he doesn’t know everyone by name, Wayne still seems to have made a considerable impression on the area’s commuters. At Thanksgiving, Wayne received dozens of Starbucks gift cards. Ever since then he’s been enjoying a daily morning coffee alongside his regulars before heading outside to sell Street Roots.
It seems that what Wayne relishes most about being a vendor is being able to connect with people who otherwise would remain strangers to him. He never once lets me forget how much he loves the people who have become familiar to him over his year as a Street Roots vendor. Before I leave Wayne makes sure to remind me what, above all, he wants included in his vendor profile: “All I really want to say is Merry Christmas to all my customers. Make sure you put that in!” So, to all of those strangers who have become his customers and friends, Merry Christmas from Wayne.