Another one bites the dust. They came here from Mexico twenty years ago: Rojo and Monica. When he arrived he took the first job he could find as a dishwasher. Worked his way up to short order cook. And after ten years, and gaining citizenship, he and his wife opened Monica’s on 2nd Avenue and 83rd. I was one of their first customers. The cash register wasn’t working and I help Rojo fix it.
As a small business owner myself, and being home all day, I’ve developed close relationships with the neighborhood businesses: bodegas, Fedex, UPS stores, the Indian deli, and so-on. Rojo worked like a dog. He was there before six and never left the little store until 9 (preparing for the next day).
If anyone was going to make it in this spot – it would be him. And the American Dream was shining before him. And it almost happened. His store caught on because he made great sandwiches, and his wife offered a friendly smile and home made pastries. And the little bodega was packed.
He was hit with two distinct threats: the second avenue subway (people didn’t like to walk into the store as dynamite was going off nearby); the sidewalk by his store narrowed; and the economy went where we all know – downhill.
A few days ago we were talking and although Rojo is a private person he began opening up about his financial troubles. His income had dropped so low that the Federal Tax something-or-other was going to send someone to watch what went into his cash register. Talk about a joke – you never met a more brutally honest guy. And oh – they had their first kid somewhere along the line.
What this leads up to is the usual around here – he’s going back to Mexico and his store has been shut tight with the gate down for three days and I confirmed with the garage guy that not only has Rojo shut up the store; but the Indian Deli on the other side (third avenue) was leaving. Add that to the other stores that have closed lately, or just about to close – and you get an idea of life up here on the upper east side.
Adios Jose. You told me the name of the small village you come from in Mexico and one day maybe I’ll be there myself – where I can live off social security like a king.