Pizza or Sandwich

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Neil Devlin at the junk store where he works in Williamsburg. Photo by Tabitha Peyton Wood

Neil Devlin knows he’s doing well when he can afford a decent lunch. “If I’m eating at the $3 falafel place every day or making peanut butter sandwiches, it means I’m not doing so well,” he says. “If I can afford to get a burger or a decent slice of pizza… I’m doing okay.”

Devlin moved to Williamsburg two years ago with an associate’s degree in graphic design, but has since given up looking for jobs in graphics. A sign of the times, he says, is the increasing difficulty of finding work with only a single skill. He senses that employers want to save money by hiring one person to do everything.

And so Devlin spends much of his time behind the counter of a junk store off Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, selling everything from World War II-era typewriters to marbles, buttons, and Kodak transparencies. Junk store sales, he explains, are less tied to the economy than to the academic calendar, peaking when college students decorate their dorms each September and petering off over the summer.

He says his personal financial situation has more to do with how he manages his money than with the broader economy.

This week, it’s peanut butter and falafel.

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