Photo courtesy of Facebook | Vendor Tie-Dye Tom looks out over the Cincinnati skyline with his dog, Ben. Tom has sold his wares at Xavier outside of Gallagher since 1993.
If students ventured anywhere near Gallagher Student Center last week, they would have have seen the assortment of tapestries billowing outside, along with tables packed with unique buttons and flags. All of this was brought to you by Tie-Dye Tom, an eccentric vendor and devoted Deadhead. Tom does not use his real name for privacy concerns. He travels with his 12-year-old dog Ben to regional universities, selling his merchandise. If you had the chance to visit him at all during his stay, you know that this is a man who has treated his life as a journey and has much wisdom to pass along.
Tom began his business in college while attending the University of West Florida. In school, he and his girlfriend at the time sold handmade necklaces to support their education. While visiting New Orleans one weekend, a man offered Tom his business for $750. Tom seized the opportunity. He purchased the business, tent and merchandise included.
A few weeks after the initial purchase, Tom decided to make a permanent move to New Orleans instead of commuting from his school in Pensacola. He quit school his junior year, asserting that “either you can find your future, or your future finds you. I guarantee you’ll be a lot happier if you find your future.”
Tom began selling at colleges to escape the hot, tourist-driven New Orleans. He found Xavier when he toured through Kentucky and Ohio in 1993. In 1996 he returned to Xavier and began making it a consistent trip.
Along with Xavier, Tom sells at Northern Kentucky University, several universities in Michigan, Austin Peay State University and the University of North Alabama. He likened his search for the right schools to crabbing.
“If you find out where the crab are, you stay with the crab. I find out where the good vibes are, and I just stay with the good vibes.”
Tom continues coming to Xavier because of the hospitality he experiences on campus. He recalled when his mother’s health began deteriorating, Xavier staff responded with compassion. On the occasion Tom has had to cancel visits, Tom appreciated that Xavier employees have been “very, very understanding of the situation. That’s worth more than anything else in this world: patience and understanding.”
The biggest change Tom has observed in his tenure at Xavier is that “people are accepted for who they are at the start.” Tom values that people no longer have to change themselves to fit in. Instead, they are embraced for who they are.
Tom credits this to Xavier students. The students, he claimed, “changed Xavier by being more open-minded.” He observes “much more of a sharing culture” today than when he began selling at Xavier, all thanks to students.
The love goes both ways. Xavier students adore Tie-Dye Tom, his booth and his dog.
“I think that it’s really crazy, his dedication and obvious interest in Xavier to be coming here for so long,” sophomore Caroline Puryear said. “I really like his dog.”
Sophomore Andie Parady likes that “he is really good at connecting with the students. He makes the stuff (he sells) personal.”
By: Katie Nichols | Staff Writer