The intersection of Southwest Yamhill and Second Avenue is bustling with several active and colorful storefronts. The street rumbles with the noises of a local MAX stop, Portlanders taking lunch breaks, shoppers looking for a deal, and tourists enjoying a sunny day. Also at this corner is David Somers, a Street Roots vendor, smiling and exuding a sunny aura while selling the most recent Street Roots issue in front of the darkened windows of the old Borders facade.
Where the bookstore failed, David succeeds, selling his newspapers to both his loyal customers of six years and to the ever-changing pedestrians that frequent the commercial area. The daily interaction with customers keeps him in sales, even in the challenging print market. “I was here six years ago when Borders was still here,” he says. “I like the people.”
David has lived in Portland for 12 years, and his commitment to the city and his customers is unwavering, through good and bad weather and economic cycles: “I don’t like the rain, but I like the people. Plus, (the city) has a lot of resources, and I like to help people.
“I love people and I love meeting people. I greet them with a ‘how are you this afternoon,’ or ‘have a wonderful day.’ They come back and they buy the paper.”
David engages his customers daily in an unassuming and endearing style that seems a little out of place in an area that thrives on flash and flair.
He begins his conversation with a friendly smile and ends with a much-appreciated one-liner, revealing that quality in a sale isn’t always about a quick and easy transaction. “I’m not your friendly neighborhood Spiderman, I’m your friendly neighborhood paper man.”
David recognizes the value of a dollar and, more importantly, of each person he encounters and sells to. “I have a lot of customers. One Friday during the new issue, I started with 40 papers and I sold all of them that day!”
David’s amiable personality reminds us of an age when sales and shopping was an art that involved the vendor and customer, when relationships were built and treasured. This is not a lost art, as David Somers exhibits. He maintains and preserves it with a smile, chuckle and quick-witted joke anyone with a heart would appreciate: “Cheese? I’m not a rat,” he says as he poses for his photo.