One man's stand
A ragtag market becomes a fixture in a falling neighborhood
Published: December 21, 2011
But he still faces challenges, such as how many of his customers can pay only with a Bridge Card, which he's unable to process, or that the soup kitchen next door gives out free food to many of his potential customers, or that he can't expand his stock by much because he doesn't own a vehicle and relies on the randomly timed goodwill of others who drive him to Eastern Market for his supplies. Their cars can hold only so much food.
"I thought I may be able to get a van or something, but everywhere I go I can't get it 'cause my credit is not all that good, so I figure that maybe, the good Lord willing, somebody might come along and say, 'Look here, we got a van sitting up there somewhere. Put a tire on it, wash it up, go ahead let's see what you can do.'"
That hasn't happened, so for now the market stays small, almost like a country roadside fruit stand in its simplicity. It's $1 for six oranges, or four bananas, and 15 cents per apple. A pumpkin costs $3. And he's got bags of rice and sometimes a pineapple or kiwi fruit too — all just as cheap.
Prices like these don't bring him much reward other than some respect, hellos from now-familiar neighbors, and a sense of purpose he couldn't get when he was toiling underneath cars in a garage.
"I wouldn't mind having enough money to pay my rent and light and gas bills," he says. "But I would like to really be an asset to the neighborhood. I like that better than making money."
"Hey, Luther!" yells a woman, who stops over to say hi. Moments later, a man on a bike does the same. Down the street, the lights of the supermarket shine brightly even in the daytime, while inside the warehouse door, Fowler sits alone as one neighbor after another stops by to wish him well.
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