Gabriel Tataru, 47, Sainsbury’s, Gloucester Road, Bristol

Bristol Big Issue vendor Gabriel Tataru is working towards his dream of one day opening his own grocery shop by selling the magazine

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I was the first one from my family to arrive in the UK when, about five and a half years ago, I moved to Bristol. I started working as a labourer on construction sites in Bristol, but I had some medical issues as a result of injuring my leg and my back. In Romania, I’d started working in construction when I was 17 years old. I was a qualified steel fixer and carpenter so that’s why I decided to continue in that type of work when I came to the UK.

After that, I found out about The Big Issue through some friends. Then I decided to start working with The Big Issue, because it looked like a more relaxed and less physical job than my last one. Things have been good lately here on my pitch. My clients are very kind and many of them have become friends who care about me and I care about them too. Things are quieter on the streets than they were before the pandemic and that means that sales are not as good as before, but I am managing to get by with enough money to cover my rent.

Things were difficult with money during the pandemic because we were unable to sell the magazine. But The Big Issue has helped us as much as they could with money, food vouchers and covered for some energy bills. Even so, I was extremely happy when I returned to my pitch in April. I felt full of life and joyful just to be back out there. I was really happy that lockdown was almost over. It was really good to see my customers again. I have a very good bond with them. I never speak badly to them and I never force anyone to buy the magazine. If people want to buy a copy from me, that’s great, and if they don’t, I keep smiling and being polite.

It wasn’t just during lockdown when The Big Issue has supported us over the years. I’m pleased with how The Big Issue has supported us. They helped me and my wife Maricica with English lessons and even contributed towards getting furniture. When we returned to selling The Big Issue, the team helped us to go cashless and provided card readers and phones. Card readers are very useful, especially now when not too many people have cash on them. So yes, they’ve been helpful and we’re very pleased.

I think if it wasn’t for The Big Issue and I could not find a job that suits me and my needs, I would probably have to return to Romania. I do miss Romania sometimes, of course, but it’s much better here, though. People are kinder and the way of living is much better – I think I will be living here forever. Away from my pitch I don’t have any special hobbies, but I’ve always wanted to own a business. My dream is to one day open a grocery store I can call my own. Unfortunately, you need money to open and run a business and we don’t have that possibility at the minute.

I wasn’t really focused on the business side of things when I was younger. If I met younger Gabriel now I would advise him to be more business focused and to find another job opportunity. The Big Issue isn’t always necessarily the most lucrative work.

But I will keep working hard on my pitch and keep smiling and keep being polite. I want to send my customers this message: Stay in good health, God bless you and I am thanking you from the bottom of my heart for buying the magazine and supporting me.

Words: Paula Gombos

Sainsbury's Bank ATM, Gloucester Road, Horfield, Bristol, UK