SF father-son newspaper hawkers are stopping the press 

click to enlarge Dan Louie, left, takes money for a San Francisco Chronicle from a customer at his sales spot in the Sunset as son Eric observes. Their last day hawking the paper is Sunday. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.f. Examiner
  • Dan Louie, left, takes money for a San Francisco Chronicle from a customer at his sales spot in the Sunset as son Eric observes. Their last day hawking the paper is Sunday.

When Eric Louie began selling newspapers in front of a doughnut shop at the corner of Irving Street and 22nd Avenue in the Sunset, it was common to sell 100 papers a day. That was in 1987, and Louie was 10.

On a recent foggy Sunday, Louie donned a San Francisco Chronicle apron and a thick jacket while trying to sell 20 or so papers with his father. It would be one of their final Sundays hawking the Chronicle, as the 37-year-old and his father, Dan, were told they will no longer be paid to sell the weekend dailies. This weekend will be their last run.

The Chronicle said it was no longer using the Louies as it shifts focus from street hawking to retail sales of the paper.

Several folks who stopped by for a paper Sunday called the Louies a fixture in the neighborhood, having sold papers up and down Irving Street over the years. Their most recent location is in front of the KFC-Taco Bell restaurant at Irving and 20th Avenue. The elder Louie has hawked papers there since 2007.

"He just never left," Eric Louie said of his father, a retired federal government worker.

Dan Louie, 64, took over as the primary newspaper salesman after his son graduated from college in 2000. The gig does not pay much -- they take home 75 cents per paper sold, plus a weekly $40 stipend -- but the reward is invaluable.

The very existence of newspapers in the digital-heavy world of 2015 might surprise some people. But the father-son duo, who have outlasted nearly a dozen other newspaper salesmen in the area over the decades, do not believe everyone gets their news online even though newspaper circulation has been declining for decades.

"There's this big transition from people who are accustomed to reading the newspaper with something in hand versus someone who can just scroll on the screen and read," Dan Louie said.

As he handed a Sunday Chronicle to a regular customer in exchange for a couple dollars, the elder Louie acknowledged that newspapers are not necessarily disappearing but rather evolving.

"There's a place for papers," his son added, quick to defend an industry he has loved his whole life. Eric Louie worked as a reporter in the Bay Area until 2011, and he still freelances.

In fact, his decade of hawking newspapers before graduating from college bred his love for the news and the papers that print it.

"I was always into papers," Eric Louie said. "That's what I want to read, and that's what all my friends read."

Despite declining sales -- the duo typically sell just 10 to 20 papers on Saturdays and Sundays -- several folks remain loyal customers.

"It's a part of our Sunday ritual," said Louise Snowden, 73, a Sunset resident who has bought weekend papers from the Louies for at least a decade.

For Snowden, spending a few moments chatting with the Louies is as much a part of the experience as actually buying the paper.

"It's just a connection, and in this world there are fewer and fewer actual connections," she said.

Eric and Dan Louie said they will miss those customer interactions as well. What they will also miss is the father-son time spent together. Eric Louie lives in San Leandro and also works as a caterer, so the weekends have been a time for the two to catch up.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Bio:
Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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