It’s an unusually balmy Saturday afternoon in December, and Rob Wylder stands in front of the espresso filling station at the corner Fourth Avenue and Plum Street wearing a Santa hat and a black Johnny Cash T-shirt.
Next to him, an assortment of eclectic Christmas wreaths hangs over a large wooden A-frame, and some more wreaths are slung over a nearby traffic light’s electrical box.
Wylder looks like a DIY Salvation Army Santa, minus the bell and with a decidedly more mellow approach to marketing.
Just down the street from Wylder, Christmas shoppers are migrating away from Olympia City Hall, where groups of protesters are starting to disperse as police push them down Fourth Avenue.
At first the commotion was hampering sales, but some of the fleeing holiday shoppers stop, and one man buys a wreath. A few minutes later, Wylder asks a group of four teenagers dressed in all black if they want to buy a wreath made by the local homeless community.
“I appreciate it, but I don’t have my wallet on me,” one teen says.
Wylder is not raising money for “charity.” It’s true that, as he explains to customers, all the sales proceeds go to unhoused wreath-makers, but unlike a nonprofit, there’s no management or bureaucracy that’s managing those funds.
The idea is threefold: create “low-barrier employment,” organize in a “horizontal” (egalitarian) way, and have fun doing it — which helps explain the project’s playful name.
“Our whole thing is…