The Real Change Portrait Project


Ed McClain
1943 - 2013

"Ed McClain" Drawing by
Seated in a chair outside the Safeway in the U-District, Ed McClain’s booming voice can be heard by all who pass by on the sidewalk. “Real Change! Have a great day, ma’am. Have a great day, sir. Real Change!” Ed has been a vendor since 1995, a year after Real Change was founded, and has sold in front of the Safeway on Roosevelt the entire time. He is a consummate salesman. Even during our interview, Ed continued to greet his regular customers. Ed was born in Chicago, where he spent 35 years of his life. He attended Northern Illinois University and majored in sociology and political science. Of his education, Ed said, “It has helped me in selling immensely. It’s like I’m a natural.” Ed’s natural selling ability, combined with his background and love for Real Change, has made Ed an icon. Ed has consistently been among the top 10 highest-selling Real Change vendors, and he’s one of the newspapers’ best-known vendors. Ed moved to Seattle in order to be closer to his son and grandson. He loves spending time with and taking care of his 13-year-old grandson, who he described as one of the most important people in his life. “I take him shopping every three months. He’s the reason that I continue to stay in Seattle,” Ed said. One of Ed’s passions is baking and cooking. Ed spent ten years in Paris learning how to bake, honing his skill. “It was a great experience. Baking there is different than it is here. Everyone has their own specific job, and I was damn good at mine, making dough.” When Ed came back from Paris he held down jobs in the cooking industry in Chicago, at the Hyatt Regency. When he moved to Minnesota he worked as a cook for Country House. Every year Ed cooks something to show his appreciation for Real Change. “I try to give Real Change something in return for what they have given me,” Ed said. He credits his success as a vendor to his consistency and dedication. “I am out here seven days a week, rain or shine. I enjoy it here. I want to continue to do this for as long as I possibly can.” To his customers, Ed says: “Just continue to buy Real Change, the greatest newspaper in the world.”

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