“If one out of every five cars would pay $2 and maybe a tip for The Contributor,” vendor Michael says, grinning, “I could build my own house.”
It’s not a dream; it’s math. Michael – or as his customers know him, “The Scribe” – has built up such a regular customer base on Harding Pike that he now sets a weekly budget based on what he knows will come in from those purchasing the paper – “the two and five dollar regulars,” as he calls them.
His spot where he sells nearly every day of the year presents a steady stream of traffic as executives, developers and other professionals trickle into Nashville from Bellevue, Franklin and Brentwood. He also sells one morning a week near Vanderbilt University, and The Scribe has figured out how many customers he needs in order to achieve his dream of building his own home.
“Whatever you do, do with all your might,” he says, explaining how he faithfully sells the paper every day.
Artwork by 'The Scribe.'
He adds, “(Selling the paper) is exhausting; the heat is exhausting. I start the day with coffee and I have people who make sure I have it. I have a very unique corner in that people make sure I’m taken care of.”
It was that customer base that came together nearly a year ago to send The Scribe to his daughter’s wedding in Ohio. Weeks before her wedding date, The Contributor published a poem written by The Scribe about how he hoped he could attend her ceremony. Soon his customers started dropping off designated donations, as well as a bus ticket and hotel reservation, to make sure he could watch his daughter walk down the aisle.
“It was such an exciting time when so many people in the community came together to make sure at all costs to get me there, and they got me there,” he says. “When I got back, I was so overjoyed sharing pictures and told (my customers) how it was. We celebrated.”
He adds, “My daughter was so blessed that I made it."
When The Scribe started selling the paper in 2014, he says it was purely “for survival.”
“I was nervous at first. I first got the paper to get by, just day by day. Now, I’m doing much better. I’m very faithful. They know who I am.
“The real hardcore spot on (customers) are the ones who are going to be out of town and they double up. They are so kind and considerate. They really care.”
After building up his customer base and creating a budget, The Scribe says the steady flow of income from Contributor sales has allowed him to spend dedicated time and resources on his art. His paintings are regularly published in The Contributor.
“When The Contributor is sharing my art and poems, it brings awareness to the people of what my abilities are, my talents, who I am, what I’m able to do.
“It also brings awareness (that) the needs that starving artists have today are supplies.” He says he is always in need of brushes, acrylic paint tubes, framed canvases.
“(Art) gives me an outlet to succeed. (Being an artist) is who I am deep down and what I depend on to be distracted from depression.”
The Scribe was recently surprised when a stranger approached him while he was selling The Contributor to inquire about a painting of his published in the paper. He had already sold the piece she was interested in but he was able to create her a custom piece. She told him she plans to hang it in her salon in Green Hills.
As summer approaches, The Scribe says he’ll see the typical drop off in his regular customer base that comes as schools begin summer break. He hopes to still see his regular customers at his spot, and shares the same hope for other Contributor vendors who depend on their customers to survive.
“With school being out soon, I sure would be blessed to have my regular school crowd come to visit me.”