Gregorio Castañeda sells oranges, eggs, avocados and peanuts out of a van a few days a week, usually in front of the Chase bank at the corner of Mission and 25th streets. He alternates between making calls to repeat customers, and trying to engage people walking by.
The Mission is Castañeda’s preferred neighborhood because people don’t tend to buy in other parts of the city, even when his prices are significantly lower than those at nearby grocery stores, he said.
Like most other street vendors, the decline in foot traffic during the pandemic has significantly affected Castañeda’s revenue.
“Sales have dropped by like 60 percent,” Castañeda said in Spanish, “people are scared of getting infected, so they stay inside.”
While Castañeda understands the fear, he said he refuses to let his own fear stop him.
“You have to respect the virus, but you can’t let fear take over, otherwise it will terrorize your life and you’ll never go out,” Castañeda said. “I have to take that risk, to make sure I can get this food to people.”
Over the past year, the 67-year-old man has had to limit his expenses to match his decreased income. This has meant no more eating out, no more casinos and gambling with friends, and no more new clothes.
While the city has begun reopening as vaccination rates rise, Castañeda hasn’t seen that reflected in his sales. But he’s hopeful things will pick up soon.
“This won’t be for life, and it might not finish this year, but eventually, things will be put right,” Castañeda said. “We just have to keep following the rules and helping each other out and we can overcome this together.”