I was surprised to learn that Eddie Zuber, the vendor outside the New Seasons market on N Interstate Ave., started selling Street Roots on August 6th. Eddie’s nonchalance and amicability with his surroundings suggest months of experience, and his friendly rapport with the New Seasons staff seems as if it were gained from longstanding trust. I soon realized that I was responding to the warm, thoughtful demeanor that Eddie naturally brings to the job.
Eddie was born in Childress, Texas, and retains a Texas accent to this day, despite having moved around between Arizona, Washington, and Oregon. He settled in Vancouver, Wash. in 1986 and commuted to Portland on weekdays to prep metal in a galvanizing plant. His job at the plant lasted for 16 years. Eddie notes a subtle benefit of the work: “Working in a galvanizing plant, you rarely have colds, because of the zinc. You breathe it, it permeates your skin… it keeps you healthy.”
He developed a close friendship with his employer, and supplemented his work at the plant by commuting to Wilsonville on the weekends to tend to the man’s five-acre homestead. Eddie alludes to this man (for whom he worked for a total of 21 years) fondly: “More than the job, it was probably who I worked for. Both of us liked each other. Besides, we sort of both have the same sense of humor … he was a unique man.”
Eddie explains that he had to quit his job on the homestead because of poor circulation in his legs. “My legs would just freeze up,” he says. Since starting as a vendor, he has met many new people and attracted regular customers, one of whom buys him a strawberry lemon smoothie every day. He respects the New Seasons staff and shares the opinion that vending should be treated “just like any other public relations job” with the store’s evening manager. Eddie lives up to this standard by being receptive to his customers.
With regard to selling the paper, he says, “I rarely ask a person twice.”
Eddie seeks to familiarize himself with his customers and establish a bond, and maintains, “It’s better to recognize your customers — recognize their faces.” At another point, he reflects and yields an insight relevant to work and life in general: “You should always have your pride. If you lose that, you haven’t got much.”
Eddie acknowledges the Street Roots staff for offering its vendors “employment, self-respect, and the pride of belonging.”
In closing, Eddie wisely distills his view to a more general outlook: “Whatever your habits are, the excess is what harms.”
Street Roots is fortunate to have Eddie on the team, and you can visit him outside New Seasons at the intersection of N Interstate Ave. and Rosa Parks Way on weekdays between 3 and 9 p.m.