CHICAGO — Jonah Fialkow started vending at Wrigley Field in 2015 while he was looking for a summer job, but this season is his first creating videos and a community around it.
He had just finished his senior year of high school and was looking for something to do before attending the University of Illinois.
“One of my friend’s dads used to vend back in the day and a lot of the vendors are still there that my buddy’s dad used to vend with,” Fialkow said. “So he put us in contact with the people that he knew. I emailed them like, ‘Hey, do you guys need help this summer? I’m a huge Cubs fan, would love to work for you.’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, we actually do.'”
So Fialkow and two of his friends would drive to Wrigley from the northern suburbs to vend at Chicago Cubs games.
This season, he started posting videos on TikTok and Instagram giving people an inside look at the job and the stories of the vendors at Wrigley Field.
“I thought it would be cool to kind of give people an inside look,” he said. “And then also share the stories of the history behind Wrigley and some of the guys who have been there for 50 or 60 years, kind of try to digitalize their stories and share them a little easier.”
The videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on TikTok and Instagram. And Fialkow and his vendor colleagues have become recognizable faces at Wrigley Field.
“I started like a week before opening day,” Fialkow said. “And even by opening day, three people recognized me that first game and I was like, ‘Whoa, this is kind of weird.'”
A few months later, people are stopping him more than a dozen times per game to say hi and ask for some autographs.
“Someone on Mother’s Day DM’d me, and they were like, ‘Hey, my mom loves your videos. Can you send me a quick video for Mother’s Day shouting it out?'” he said.
It’s not just Fialkow who is getting recognized. He has been sharing the stories of his colleagues as well, including his mentor, Uncle Ronnie, who has been a vendor for more than 50 years.
“He one game said ‘Jonah, I got recognized twice because they’re like, ‘Hey, you’re Uncle Ronnie from TikTok,'” Fialkow said. “And I was like, ‘Ronnie, isn’t that great?’ And he goes, ‘It’s not great, it’s fabulous.'”
For Fialkow, who also runs Bracketology TV, a fantasy gaming startup for reality TV, the videos and his business are about helping create a community.
“The whole idea is just to make people feel more connected to each other,” he said. “So even if one person messages me and says that they feel more connected to the Cubs or they moved out of town and my videos make them feel more connected to Wrigley and kind of their past when they lived here, I feel like it’s successful.”
Between the interactions with the fans and talking with his colleagues before games, Fialkow said it’s the social aspect that keeps him, and his colleagues, going.
“I love those little interactions that I’m having with the fans,” he said. “I’ve just had an absolute blast getting to know the older guys and listening to some of the stories of when they used to vend back in a day when peanuts were, you know, 10 cents for a bag.”
Fialkow said he has enjoyed hearing and sharing the stories of the older vendors at Wrigley Field.
“It’s for me as a die-hard Cubs fan, it’s really cool to kind of hear those stories firsthand from some of the guys who’ve experienced it for half a century,” he said.