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What It's Like To Be a Newspaper Vendor

Tony Streckfuss, in his own words

Photograph by Michael DeFilippo

Five years ago—on May 9, 2005—Tony Streckfuss set up a newspaper-and-magazine stand at the corner of Euclid and Maryland avenues. The former Marine faced challenges almost from Day 1: opposition from local businesses, brutal weather, a distribution battle to receive his standard 55 copies of the Post-Dispatch... With his seemingly endless supply of dog treats and friendly banter, though, Streckfuss won over neighbors. Today, he’s a staple of the Central West End, manning the booth from 4:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day and publishing his own newsletter. “The one thing that is most important about the kiosk,” says Streckfuss, “is the fact that the community will come stand around this thing in its own way.”

In His Words…

  • I’ve tried to make this a community event every morning. My analogy is the old country store, where folks would come together around a potbellied stove and tell each other what’s been going on in the neighborhood.
     
  • A lot of people ask how I endure the weather, and I tell them, “When you get home, go look in the mirror.” The enthusiasm customers have for what I do gives me the drive to do the same thing for them.
     
  • The general idea was to have a Dog Treat Sunday—every Sunday, bring your dog by and get a cookie. I couldn’t afford to pay for the damn cookies, but I did… These dogs started expecting that cookie, so I said, “The hell with it. Let’s just do it every day.”
     
  • Starting about three years ago, when a dog owner would know that it was time for the dog to be put to rest, my location would be the last place they’d be before the vet.
     
  • My biggest sin of all is, I know more of the dogs by name than the people.
     
  • Do something to make the people entertained when you do your job.
     
  • In the Marines, one of my main duties was as an observer… It became a natural part of my persona. I’m always looking at everything.
     
  • Sales is the easiest thing in the world. There’s only one thing you need to know: You have to believe in the product you’re selling.

     
  • Any time you change one part of the system, it changes all the other parts.
     
  • Without a doubt, the hometown paper is always gonna be the most quantity sold. If you want to talk dollars and cents, nothing can touch The New York Times.
     
  • It’s nothing fantastic, but it’s 100,000 little things that don’t mean anything to anybody else that make it worth it.
     
  • I have so much time on my hands out here, I think of quirky sayings, like “That’s OK, you can talk in front of my back” or “Sometimes all I need is a swift kick in my complacency” or “Would somebody please make up my mind?”
  •  
  • Without a doubt, the hometown paper is always gonna be the most quantity sold. If you want to talk dollars and cents, nothing can touch The New York Times.
     
  • My flag is my calling card. If that flag is up, I’m somewhere around.
     
  • I won’t see the end of newspapers in my lifetime. I’m gonna be 60 in July. There’s a lot of people who are hard-core like me. The only way I’m not gonna have a newspaper in my hand is if all the newspapers go under, and it’s not going to happen.
     
  • I keep telling everybody, “This is not my kiosk. It’s yours.” I may be the lunatic who’s standing out here every day...but you make me do it.
     

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