Nestled in the Park Blocks two streets west of the always busy stretch of Southwest Broadway, is a hidden gem of a vendor location: Starbucks at Southwest 9th and Taylor. It’s quieter here than most places downtown, and on sunny days, as people relax at outdoor tables sipping java with dogs at their feet, the location feels more like a European street corner than the stoop of a typical American coffee chain.
Jonathan Bartley, who has been selling Street Roots on and off for about two years, feels comfortable here; not just as he sells at this location, but in Portland overall.
“I feel like I have made Portland my home, and right now I don’t think anywhere would feel more like home to me than Portland. People here tend to be a lot friendlier than a lot of big cities. It’s unusually small town-ish for a city of its size.”
Having grown up in a small college town in Florida, Jonathan is — like many of us — a Northwest transplant. Three years ago, he moved to Portland for a change of life and immediately took a liking to Street Roots.
“I first learned about Street Roots from some of the other vendors out there when I wasn’t homeless,” Jonathan says. “When I would come downtown, I felt a positive energy from the vendors. And that was my first positive impression of Street Roots. They had more of a contentedness. That stuck with me. And when I became homeless, it made Street Roots appealing. I might have a dry spell for an hour where I don’t get any response. Somehow I feel like it rolls off my back easier when I stay positive.”
Jonathan chooses his words with care.
“I like the feeling of honesty that comes from selling Street Roots. I may not make a lot of money, but I feel good about what I’m doing,” he says. “I feel like I get an added sense of satisfaction when I’m able to turn somebody on to the newspaper for the first time, especially if they end up buying one because it’s something that I feel a strong alliance with. It’s something I’d like to be an advocate for long after I need to actually sell it myself. I hope that I’ll want to stay involved in whatever way I can.”
Jonathan’s location is situated at a crossroad between Director Park, the Central Library, the Park Blocks and the Paramount Hotel, an area that attracts locals and tourists alike.
“I like to get to know regular customers who know me by name,” he says. “I don’t have that many of them yet, but the ones that do talk to me, I feel like actually are concerned about how I’m doing. I like developing relationships with the regulars that come back and check in every few days. There’s a diverse crowd that comes through the area.”
Eventually, Jonathan would like to go back to college once he has figured out what he wants to do for a career. Until then, he finds hope in former vendors he has met who are now students or professionals. “That’s always inspiring and brightens up my day a little,” Jonathan says.