May 7, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 19

Vendor of the Week

Vendor Profile - Nick Cooper

By Mike Wold / Contributing Writer

Nick Cooper sells Real Change in Queen Anne.

Photo by Jon Williams / Arts Editor

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Nick Cooper started selling Real Change after he was laid off and became homeless. He’d been working his way up, starting as a dishwasher and eventually becoming a prep cook. He was prepping salads and lobster at Key Arena when the Sonics left town in 2008, so he lost his job. He wasn’t able to find another.

Eventually, Nick turned to selling Real Change. He was staying at the Union Gospel Mission, “doing nothing, going crazy sitting in the homeless shelter.” Real Change gave him extra money and something to do. The customers are “pretty reasonable and nice.” He doesn’t like to talk about personal stuff with them — he’d rather keep it on a business level.

Nick’s a native of the area, having gone to Foster High School in SeaTac, where he played football; his dad, who is deceased, was an ironworker, and his mother, now retired, worked the night shift as a janitor at Seattle Center. They lived in an apartment on Highway 99 near the airport, which Nick says was a fun place to grow up, because of all the action.

Now he’s based in central Seattle, selling near Dick’s in Queen Anne and staying at the Downtown Emergency Service Center. He likes it better than the Union Gospel Mission because it’s less crowded. But he still has to be in by 10 in the evening and out at 5 in the morning, so it’s a challenge, especially when it’s cold and rainy.

Nick never went to a Sonics game while he worked at Key Arena. He occasionally got to see five or 10 minutes of the game, but his preference is to play. After he’s done selling Real Change, he goes to a court nearby and plays free throw with whoever happens to be there with a ball.

Nick also likes to draw; people and birds are his favorite subjects. He draws them freehand from memory and thinks about the possibility of taking up painting and selling his artwork. He plays video games when he can’t play basketball and goes regularly to AA meetings.

When the Ride Free Area ended, it was a problem. “For the first couple of weeks connections were hard. Now I walk where I have to go,” Nick says. Maybe because of the walking, his health is “pretty good,” and he’s trying to quit smoking.

If Nick had a car, he could get down to Oregon to visit his mother and older brother; he hasn’t seen them in a couple of years. It also would be easier to find a job. So he’s saving his money. His choice would be a pickup truck, because then he could sleep in the back or on the big bench seat. He figures he’ll have enough when he’s saved a thousand dollars, but there’s still one drawback: He’ll need extra money to take it to the shop when it needs repairs. Still, he says, it’s a hope for the future.

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